Chicago Theatre Review
Loving You Until It Hurts
The Artistic Home’s BEATEN
When entering the Artistic Home’s new space at Grand and Noble, I was given a playbill and went to my seat in a small but well utilized, black box theatre. The playbill had a comic book style depiction of a nerd dreaming of saving a damsel in distress with the words ‘BEATEN’ in dynamic font across the top. The lights faded and Greg, a nerdy young man in a captain America t-shirt and thick-rimmed glasses, stood center stage and delivered a monologue filled with pop culture references and satirical humor. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that this play was not really about the nerd who gets the pretty girl. In fact, it is about three generations of women dealing with physical and emotional abuse, with a slightly misleading prelude.
The real heart of this story is Chloe, played by Kathryn Acosta. She is the daughter in this dysfunctional family, at home recovering from a serious injury at the hands of her ex-boyfriend. Too emotionally damaged to jumpstart her life, Chloe is cared for by her Grandmother, a sharp-witted woman dying of cancer who hides a stash pot and alcohol from Chloe’s overbearing mother, Madelynne. Grandma and mom, played by Kathy Scambiatterra and Kristen Collins respectively, are constantly at each other’s throats over Chloe’s future. These two actresses, both Artistic Home ensemble members, deliver nuanced and honest performances of genuinely flawed women.
Chloe’s one escape from her troubles is Greg, played by Conor McCahill. McCahill’s character spends most of his time telling Chloe how amazing she is and sticking awkward comic book references into a scene. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Greg may not have Chloe’s best interests at heart. Acosta and McCahill deliver fine performances, but something in each character lacks the punch of realism that permeates the roles played by Scambiatterra and Collins. The character of Greg in particular stands out, because his teen drama storyline and self-centered monologues pull away from the intense exchanges of the women.
The director, Katherine Swan, tries to dilute the vehement exchanges of the woman through her choices as much as the author, Scott Woldman, and I appreciated it just as little. After Madelynne furiously attacks her mother after being slapped for the first time in her life, I wanted to sit uncomfortably in the following silence and contemplate the weightiness of the scene, but instead modern indie pop music dispelled the severity of the moment as the set was changed for the next scene. Domestic violence is a dark and tragically real problem of the world and I wanted the production to own their participation in the social discussion. But perhaps they didn’t want to make this story all about abuse.
On the whole, Beaten is a wonderful representative of original Chicago playwriting, and the Artistic Home presents a captivating performance of Woldman’s work. The production quality felt a little less sophisticated than the text and the performances, but it didn’t take away from the story either. I left this production with plenty of food for thought and an eagerness to see the next production at The Artistic Home.
Reviewed by Clare Kosinski
Beaten at The Artistic Home
Presented June 30 – August 11 by The Artistic Home, 1376 West Grand Ave, Chicago, IL.
Tickets are available by calling (312) 243-3963 or visiting www.theartistichome.org.
For information on this and other shows please visit www.theatreinchicago.com