Archive | August, 2018

Beloved Packs an Emotional Punch

11 Aug

Reviewed by Nicholas Linnehan
Have you loved someone so much that you thought you’d die without them? In facet, the very air you breathed depended on their existence? If you can relate to this unhealthy gut- wrenching need then you’ll relate to Beloved brought to us by the Scandinavian American Theater Company. This play, written by Lisa Langseth, has great emotional depth and force, but lacks many logistical details that leave us confused. As a result, this play could be a powerhouse but the red flags it raises detract from its overall impact.

Katerina is in a rotten suburb and yearns for a world filled with culture and refinery. In her current predicament she is living with her blue colored boyfriend Matthias, who has no interest in art, society and the finer things in life. When Katerina lands a job as a receptionist in a concert hall, she meets Adam, an illustrious composer who has everything Katerina seemingly wants. Eventually the two have an affair. Yet, Adam is married with a baby. This does not stop the two of them and Katerina develops a blinding need for Adam and she can not live without him. She learns the hard way that all that glitters is not gold.

In this one woman show Ellinor Dilorenzo does a remarkable job capturing the sick emotional incessant need that Katerina feels for Adam. Her pain is palpable and heart breaking to witness. As a general rule, I do not go to see one person shows. I tend to find them tedious to listen to. Watching one person drone on and on for nearly 90 minutes can feel like an eternity and lacking action. But Dilorenzo gives us a performance that is anything that is boring. We follow her harrowing heart ache fully and are with her every step of the way.

Unfortunately, the script is not fully fleshed out. There are many details missing that take us out of the world of the play. For example, we are never quite sure where we are. It seems like we are in Europe, but there are some specific American references that make us unsure of where this story is happening. Throughout the play Katerina is putting things in a suitcase, but we never know where she is going or leaving from? The last location of the play is set in her grandma’s apartment and she says Adam can now visit her any time. But where is the grandma and if the grandma is dead how is the unemployed Katerina living there? All of these loose ends add up and eventually take us out of the world of the play. There is an unnecessary and melodramatic event in the middle of the play that is jarring and not believable. It is a rather big plot twist, yet  is dealt with in less than five minutes, which  makes us wonder why it is there in the first place?

This is a shame because DiLorenzo does her best to keep us emotionally invested and she mostly succeeds. Her talent is undeniable, but the scripts flaws are too big to ignore. This is a shame because Beloved packs an emotional punch that lands strongly. Yet, like a house without a strong foundation, it can only hold so much before it completely collapses.

Beloved plays now through August 18, 2018 at Theater Row 410 W 42nd St. http://www.SATCNYC.ORG

Comfort Women Sits Uncomfortably

4 Aug

Reviewed by Nicholas Linnehan

 

There is nothing worse than going to a show and within the first minute you know what the entire plot is going to be. True, in classical works this is expected, but in a new musical like Comfort Women this knowledge sucks the air out of the play before it even officially begins. While understanding the topic of the piece can be informative, the play itself has to have something unexpected to happen in order to grab the audience. Unfortunately, this musical had few surprises in it which made it feel too familiar, which downplayed its impact significantly.

The show opens with some captions written across a screen, which gives too much away. Korean women were captured by the Japanese during WW II and forced to be sex slaves. The women bond together The play follows Goeun, one of the Korean women enslaved. She eventually meets Minsick, a Korean soldier who is serving in the Japanese army The two of them create a love story that is unnecessary and cliché. You can probably guess the rest of the story line as I did.

There are a few significant problematic moments in this show. One has to deal with the choreography. The actors seemed to be uncomfortable doing it and some were always a beat behind, throwing off the intended synchronicity. Most of the time the dancing seemed out of place and like it was just forced into the piece. The exception is when the actress playing Soonja sings “Butterfly in Moonlight”. During the number the ensemble uses white flowing fabric to make a picture of the girl as a butterfly. This moment was executed well and had intention,unlike most of the other choreography

Another detrimental area was the fight sequences. The stage combat was so fake that it made them seen laughable and took us out of the world of the play. Instead of enhancing the horrific nature of abuse that these women endured, it detracted from the situation and removed its efficacy. A more sophisticated approach to this area is needed to make it believable.

What saves this play is its talented cast, Abigail Cholarader plays Goeun and acts her butt off. She, almost single handedly, saves the shows from utter despair. Her piercing voice shine through and we can listen to her forever. She brings a sense of honesty that breaks through all the chaos unfolding around her. On the other hand, while not the strongest vocalist, Matthew Bautista adds much needed comedy to this dark world. What he may lack as a singer, is more than made up for in his acting chops.

While Comfort Women definitely has the potential to be a powerhouse, in its current state it is more like an attempt to replicate of Miss Saigon. There is definitely a story here that needs to be told, but it needs more originality before reaching its crucible.

Comfort Women plays now through August 9, 2018 at the Peter J sharp Theater 416 W 42nd St. http://www.comfortwomenmusical.com/

http://www.comfortwomenmusical.com/