In 1895 there was an eclipse of the moon in Turkey, people believed that by shooting at the ‘beast’ on the moon they could rid it of the shadow.
This event stands at the center of this story told in "Beast On The Moon," on stage now for International City Theatre.
It's a love story. Simple on the surface. Two people broken inside from life’s cruelty finding each other as a safe harbor in a dangerous world. Love stories are fractal images that have held the trauma and wisdom of countless lives. This love story, written 24 years ago, about a couple seeking acceptance in the familiar all the while trying to forget, calls out with an urgency that should not be overlooked.
The story of two refugees, of a little discussed and still unacknowledged genocide, is brought to life here by caryn desai’s solid directorial storytelling skills. It’s not surprising that this stirring, funny, and heartbreaking play has been translated into multiple languages and is produced worldwide, winning the author numerous awards.
RIchard Kalinoski’s play “Beast on the Moon” is set in 1920s Milwaukee. Seta (Rachel Weck) an Armenian made an orphan by the Turks, becomes a “picture bride” and is brought to America. She bursts into the apartment of her new husband frightened, but full of hope. The man who brought her to America, and her husband by proxy, is Aram Tomasian (Travis Leland). Aram is a young, internally unsure and externally rigid photographer who also lost his whole family in the Armenian genocide.
Sad as it sounds, Kalinoski weaves a story full of hope; mostly through his creation of the unstoppable force that is Seta. Through her irrepressible spirit Seta wears away at the immovable object that is Aram. Leland as Aram has a difficult task but manages to give a good deal of subtext to his character though his physicalization. There isn’t much character development in the script for Aram, as it is clear that his survival has hinged on his ability to plan and organize his life into tightly structured compartments.
Seta observes that behind his eyes lies “a mountain of sadness” so, Leland must give us the clues to what we are waiting to hear through his very presence.
Weck is impressive as Seta, bringing a perfect blend of sprightliness and apprehension in just the right proportion. Seta is the conduit for much of Kalinoski’s humor and she truly begins the play with a bang that at first seems off from the introduction we were just given by the play's narrator, known only as the Gentleman (Tony Abatemarco).
The very talented Abatemarco is given the difficult task of narrating a play that really needs no narration. There are many reasons to use a narrator, Tom in Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” is a good example as we are there to hear Tom’s memory of the events. Here our narrator claims to bear witness for the play's characters, yet he watches the events unfold for a while but then leaves the stage.
Is this story from his perspective? There is an answer but, it is revealed uneventfully. Here the character seems a vestigial creation hanging on from a previous draft.
Finally, there is Vincent (Nico Ridino), an orphan on the run from the orphanage with problems of his own. A refugee in his home country; Vincent becomes wrapped up in the lives of Seta and Aram, drawn together through shared hardship. Ridino brings a precocious charm to the part and works very hard to keep his adorable Brooklyn accent even throughout.
“Beast on the Moon” is a delicate meditation on healing. I hope we can all focus on its simple message. We are all broken, we are all holding on, and there is hope.
ICT's "Beast on the Moon" continues through Sept. 8 at the Beverly O'Neill Theatre, part of the Long Beach Performing Arts Center.
Curtain is at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, with 2 p.m. matinees on Sunday. Tickets start at $47. Go to www.ictlongbeach.org.