BELOVED

Beloved9_KaitEbinger

Written by Lisa Langseth
Translated by Charlotte Barslund
Directed by Kathy Curtiss

Apparently that old saw about a woman scorned is true. At least it applies to the troubled – yet oddly likable – protagonist of Lisa Langseth’s extended monologue on the destructive power of unfulfilled desire.

Hiding out in her grandparents’ cluttered old cottage, Katarina (Ellinor DiLorenzo) pauses to leaf through a few esoteric books as she readies herself for her next move. Quoting from various philosophers, she assures the audience that she has “chosen the truth”, even if living an authentic life puts her at odds with society. She takes us back to a time when, living in a tiny flat with her unambitious boyfriend Mattias, she longs to escape from her draining, blue collar existence. Things begin to change when a local radio station holds a competition and Katarina wins tickets to the opera. Mattias dozes during the performance, but for Katarina it’s a life changing experience. She begins obsessing over the show’s haunting music, the splendor of the opera house, the elegant people in the audience. She buys classical CDs an expands her sonic horizons. Her  new interests create distance between her and her Mattias, which doesn’t improve when Katarina takes a receptionist job at the local concert hall. It’s an entry level position, but at last she is surrounded by great music and the kind of cultured people she admires. Soon she finds herself assisting Adam, a charismatic young conductor. Adam has a wife and a young child, but that doesn’t stop him from coming on to Katarina. She resists at first, but soon finds herself giving in to his advances. As their illicit romance blossoms, Katarina knows she must get rid of Mattias, and if he won’t go quietly, well, there are other ways. Meanwhile questions arise as to whether Adam sees her as someone special or just one of many extramarital amusements—likely to be a short-lived one if she threatens to complicate his life. This, too puts pressure on Katarina’s none-too-stable psyche. It seems her inner passions, once released, are as dangerous as an uncaged predator.

Though some of the onstage activity feels unnecessary, director Kathy Curtiss mostly keeps the pace going at a decent simmer. DiLorenzo, whose background includes sketch comedy and improv, puts an engagingly eccentric spin on the character and holds our attention for the show’s 75 minutes. But the story seems incomplete— and not in an intriguing, ambiguous way. After all, the basic setup isn’t that different from that of a Lifetime suspense movie. Dissatisfied Young Woman is lured away from Lackluster Mate by suave-but-untrustworthy Married Man. Complications ensue. Of course, like all conventions, these plot tropes can be made fresh, but Langseth’s writing has a pedestrian ring to it. Much of Katarina’s rhetoric is on-the nose, with the meanings of events told to the audience rather than shown (“I don’t know how I managed to live with him”, “Christ, how I’ve changed”). And unlike, say, Shelagh Delaney or Richard Price, Langstreth doesn’t energize her writing with the cadences of life in the working-class world. To be fair, New York audiences are seeing BELOVED in an English edition, and perhaps some of the energy of the original has been lost in translation. In this version, though, it feels like a very good first draft, one whose voice would be clarified and strengthened with further exploration.

BELOVED continues through August 18, 2018 at the Lion Theater,  410 W 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036. Tickets: https://www.telecharge.com/Off-Broadway/Beloved/

 

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