A Review by ICT’s Fall Intern – Julian Cao!

24 August, 2019

Beast on the Moon written by Richard Kalinoski—who was in attendance on opening night at the Beverly O’Neill Theatre—is a play revolving around the delicate, oft-tense relationship, spanning from 1921 to 1933, between Aram Tomasian, an immigrant refugee dwelling in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with an illimitable passion for photography, and Seta, his teenage mail-order bride. The scenes that trail one after another are essentially snapshots of pivotal occasions between Aram and Seta coming to life.

Perhaps Aram and Seta’s only salient similarities are their origins in Armenia and the harrowing fates of their families through the persecution of the Turks. Aside from such, they, from their temperaments to their expectations and even to how they cope with grief, are vastly dichotomous, which lends significant friction to their marriage.

Seta is an unfettered spirit; she speaks her mind, and she speaks voluminously, and her mirthful laughter permeates the room. At the beginning of the play, she, who clings tenaciously to her doll, is very much a child, and, throughout the play, she retains the joviality of a child. Aram, on the other hand, burdened by the echoes of his past and the visceral need to build a family to replace what he has lost, is austere and inflexible, and he possesses an explosive temper. He conforms religiously to what he believes is the ideal family, modeled after how his father had governed the household he grew up in: There is the patriarchal head, which is he, and his rule is not to be infringed upon; there is the wife, which is Seta, who is to be quiet, submissive, and dutiful; there are to be children to ensure the continuity of the family; God is to be worshipped, and the Bible is to be read avidly by the man. Aram, in fact, keeps a portrait of cut-out faces of his deceased family, in hopes of filling them in with his own. However, not everything goes as planned.

Particularly striking are the times when the ever-mounting tension between Aram and Seta culminates into arguments, where they, at last, relinquish hold of the mirage of a steady, functional relationship and allow for their relationship to burst at the frayed seams in order to properly patch up the rupture. Riveting, for instance, is the scene where they heatedly fling proverbs at each other to defend their standing—Aram to defend his stringency and Seta to defend her freedom.

What is truly remarkable is Seta herself; her spirit, though tested abundantly and though it wavers when her vulnerability peaks, never shatters. It is adamantine, and it is resistant to years of wear and tear. While nurturing Aram’s exponential emotional growth, she shoulders the colossal weight of his sorrow along with her own: “Your grief is so great, you make me carry it.”

Lessons are to be learned—such as how to progress when one’s utopian ideas of how the pieces should fall into place are impractical, and how to survive the scourge of one’s past by choosing to engage in the sheer vividness of one’s present. The audience is able to learn these lessons alongside the characters through all the moments of vicarious pleasure and deep, reverential silence.

Beast on the Moon, carried on a haunting tune, interspersed with specks of scintillating wit, bolstered by the incandescent performances of the actors, as well as their harmony, and shrewdly directed by caryn desai, is a play that is certain to spellbound.

Julian Cao

Performances continue through Sept 8th. Tickets: https://bit.ly/2InkVuO