Chicago Theatre Review
Raven’s ‘Beast on the Moon’ Vital Historical Theater
Beast on the Moon – Raven Theatre
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, and the resulting news coverage has cast a fresh perspective on the horrors perpetrated on the Armenian people by the Ottoman Empire. For several weeks, starting in late April, the Ottomans engaged in a systematic slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians, a grisly process that included forced marches, crucifixions, decapitations and sexual assault, among other acts of violence.
Such is the backdrop for “Beast on the Moon,” a searing portrait of two survivors of the genocide and their efforts to build a new life in America. Beautifully staged by the always capable Raven Theatre and fearlessly acted by Matt Browning and Sophia Menendian, Raven’s production is not one to be missed.
The key to “Beast” is its narrative simplicity, and the way that simplicity allows the emotions of its characters to take center stage. Seta, a 15-year-old Armenian whose family was murdered in the genocide, arrives at the beautiful Milwaukee apartment of Aram Tomasian, a fellow Armenian whose family was also murdered. The year is 1921, and Aram, via a booklet advertising Armenian orphans, has wedded Seta and paid for her transportation to Milwaukee, all with the intention of starting a family in America, one removed from the horrors of the past.
The relationship, though, is rife with tension, and there’s a tremendous skill to how playwright Richard Kalinoski and director Michael Menendian subtly weave the emotions and motivations of the characters through both acts of the play, ultimately building to a climax that is among the most moving moments of theater I’ve yet witnessed on a Chicago stage this year.
Also worth mentioning is the wonderful acting of Aaron Lamm, a seventh grader at Wilmette Junior High who has built upon his heartbreaking work in Profile Theatre’s “The Cryptogram” with another winning performance. Lamm’s ease and instincts on the stage are a joy to behold, and I eagerly anticipate seeing him develop further as an actor in future productions.
Reviewed by Peter Thomas Ricci
Presented through June 6 by Raven Theatre Company, 6157 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60660
Tickets are available by calling 773-338-2177 or by visiting www.raventheatre.com.
Additional information about this and other spectacular area productions is available at the one, the only, the indefatigable www.theatreinchicago.com.