The award winning “Beast on the Moon” by Richard Kalinoski is the final play of Raven Theatre’s 2014-15 season, and what a way to end a great season! While the topic of this play may turn away some people, as it is a story that deals with survivors of the Armenian Genocide of the early 1900’s, it is a warm-hearted love story that delves deep into the minds and souls of the people who have survived such ordeals in their lives.
Smoothly directed by Artistic Director Michael Menedian, the story takes us to Milwaukee during the 1920’s as we meet our couple, Seta Tomasian (the incredible Sophia Menedian) who has been brought there by Aram Tomasian (a very strong performance by Matt Browning) as his bride. They are both orphans of the incidents mentioned earlier, but she as a child, who saw her family after they were killed. He was able to sneak out of the country and with his father’s valuable stamp collection, which he sold off, managed to bribe his way into the Unites States where he became a photographer.
For two hours and twenty-five minutes we move from historical events to the tragedy that has brought these two people to where they are today. There is a Gentleman (deftly handled by Ron Quade), who is sort of a narrator, sort of an extra character and then as the story evolves, becomes a witness so that we can see how true the story is, from her side and from his. The last character is a little boy, Vincent (ably brought to life by young Aaron Lamm, who is able to project his character to the back row along with his voice), who as it turns out is also an orphan. While his circumstances in Milwaukee are a far cry from that of the Tomasians, he is nonetheless a suffering young man with some of the same pains and fears as the adults who end up helping him accept life.
As we watch the story unfold, and we see the frustrations that each of our characters faces, we often wonder how happy can they be with each other and the life they lead. How strong are the memories of their past? Can they ever come to closure with the past and go on to a future that can hold more in store for them in this new country, that has accepted them for who they are and not what they endured? In this case, the director and leading lady, father and daughter are Armenian-Americans, so the content of the story has deeper meaning than for most. Yet, I would think that anyone who has had any history involving the genocides that have affected our world, will have a deep understanding of how difficult closure can be.
While there were some moments where the story appeared to be like a puzzle missing a few of its parts (which is why only 4 stars instead of 5), I will say that in the final, and quite dramatic scenes, each and every part finds its place and the audience can leave the theater very satisfied with the conclusion that Kalinoski has brought to the stage. Bravo!
Another Bravo, must go out to the tech people on this show as well. Kristin Abhalter’s set is perfect, Mary O’Dowd’s props and dressing pieces are accurate and outstanding, Leif Olsen’s original music is sheer perfection as are the costumes (Lauren Roark) and lighting (Diane D. Fairchild). The fight choreographer, David Woolley, did not have a great deal of actual fighting, but did create some very tense moments that if mishandled could have ruined the outcome of the entire production. The projections by Kelly Rickert were well done, with the opening being a sort of history lesson and the final projection an implant on the brain that will last the whole ride home!
“Beast on the Moon” will continue at The Raven Theatre through June 6th with performances as follows:
Sundays at 3 p.m.
Tickets are $36 with special student rates of $15 as well as for active military and teachers. Seniors are $31.00. Tickets can be purchased by calling 773-338-2177 or online at www.raventheatre.com
There are free parking spots, plus street parking in the area is available (some metered, some not) and the bus stops at Granville and Clark Street (at the door). The theatre is located at 6157 N. Clark Street.
This is the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, so check with The Raven Theatre on some special events that will coincide with this production.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Beast on the Moon”.