Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Beast on The Moon"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Larry Stark

"Beast on The Moon"

by Richard Kalinoski
Directed by Rick Lombardo

Scenic Design by Richard Chambers
Costume Design by Francis Nelson McSherry
Lighting Design by John Malinowski
Props Design by Amy McIver
Assistant Director Nancy Curran Willis
Production Stage Manager Johnnie Steele

Aram Tomasian............................David Grillo
Seta Tomasian................................Darla Max
A Gentleman/Vincent................Phillip Patrone

The twentieth century was forced to invent terms like "genocide" and "ethnic cleansing" in order to describe the attempted extermination of masses of human beings as a national policy. The first of this century's atrocities --- the Turkish Muslim attempt to kill off their Orthodox Christian Armenian neighbors --- hangs over the couple in Richard Kalinoski's spare, hermetic play "Beast on The Moon" as they try to build a new life in Milwaukee in the 1920s.

The play is expressionistically compressed into confrontations between a young wife trying to crowd her memories of rape and death out of her mind by embracing new life, and her brooding, punnishingly silent husband whose one wish is to re-create his dead family. Scenes represent highlights from twelve years of this haunted marriage, before this single conflict of intentions is finally faced and resolved.

Everything is played out around a table, four chairs, and this professional photographer's camera, on a huge stage that is so crammed with stacks of old chairs that the actual playing area is cramped and narrow. Only the coats or hats the players wear coming into the space, snippets of gossip about the grocery shop or people wanting their pictures taken, hint that there is any wider world outside.

David Grillo and Darla Max have the difficult job of implying repressed memories and emotions that, even when articulated, are hard to grasp. Some of the background is sketched by a third figure, first an old man who sits in the shadows, explaining he is this couple's witness. In the second half of the show this figure, played by Phillip Patrone, joins the action as an orphan street-urchin the wife feeds and befriends --- who may, at play's end, become the child this orphaned couple cannot have.

This is not a play for everyone. It is as hesitant and introspective as the people it brings to life. But though the Armenian genocide was this century's first, it does not stand alone, and in that sense its message is, unfortunately, universal.


"Beast on The Moon" (till 14 February)
54 Lincoln Street, NEWTON HIGHLANDS

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide