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Theater Fri Jul 12 2013

Beaten at Artistic Home: Secrets and Lies

Put three generations of women in a house together and you're sure to have an eruption of personalities; eventually, long kept secrets slip out and lies are undone. Beaten, a world premiere drama by Scott Woldman, gives the Artistic Home actors a searing and emotionally charged script, and they all come through with fine performances.

The multigenerational family is made up of the grandmother, Eileen (Kathy Scambiatterra), the mother, Madelynne (Kristin Collins) and daughter Chloe (Kathryn Acosta). Each makes us believe in her own tangled past and present. Eileen sets the mold for herself in the first scene when she carves a potato to serve as a one-hit marijuana pipe since her daughter confiscated her bong. She suffers from cancer and sees no reason to stop smoking pot or cigarettes or drinking beer or vodka. She doesn't hesitate to express her feelings about how Madelynne is handling her life or raising her daughter.

Beaten-GB.jpg

Kathy Scambiattera and Kathryn Acosta; photo courtesy of The Artistic Home.

Chloe, cocooned in pajamas, knit cap and scarf, has quit law school and only wants to write poetry and go away to major in poetry at Berkeley. Her lawyer ex-boyfriend Jason (Joseph Wiens) beat her up so that she needed to spend a month in the hospital.

Madelynne, tensely wound and anxious, feels she is the only one working and holding the family together financially and emotionally. She yearns for her daughter to have a "normal" life, meaning, one that provides a comfortable income. In a tense monologue, Madelynne relates events of her childhood and marriage and ends by saying "I spent my whole life trying to be everything my mother wasn't."

Acting as a narrator or Greek chorus is Greg (Conor McCahill), the geeky boy next door, who wants to rescue Chloe from her housebound life. His occasional monologues are well written, wandering into philosophy and poetry, but sometimes break the dramatic thread of the play. Greg works in a comic book store and did not go to college. Madelynne does not see him as boyfriend material for Chloe. She wants Chloe to listen to Jason's apology for hurting her and renew their relationship.

The sweetest scene occurs when Chloe agrees to go on a real dinner-and-dancing date with Greg. They both dress festively. Chloe sheds the cocoon for a black spaghetti-strap dress and heels. The scene ends with them dancing close together and exchanging expressions of love--temporary expressions of love. More secrets and lies unfold and the play ends much as it began.

Katherine Swan, an Artistic Home ensemble member, sympathetically directs this five-person cast and finds ways for humor to emerge from the sadness. She does not hesitate to let anger and occasional violence erupt.

The kitchen setting designed by John Wilson serves as the main performance place, with an adjacent area used for Jason's office and other scenes. The clever playbill and poster design by John Tunis, done in graphic novel style, shows Greg imagining himself as a superhero trying to save Chloe from her fate.

Beaten is a wrenching family drama that may be too big for its small 50-seat performance space; it puts the audience very close to the floor-level stage and its high ceiling makes shouted dialogue reverberate to a very high sound level

The play was inspired by a 2009 workshop at Chicago Dramatists where female actors expressed their dissatisfaction with the lack of challenging parts for women; when asked to name their dream roles, all named parts written for men. Playwright Woldman listened. Beaten has three very strong female roles, all beautifully played in this production.

~*~

Beaten runs until August 11 at The Artistic Home, 1376 W. Grand Ave. Performances are at 7:30pm Thursdays, 8pm Fridays and Saturdays, and 5pm Sundays. Tickets are $28-$32 and can be purchased online. For more information, call 312-243-3963.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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