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THEATER BEAT

Raw Emotion, 2 Principals Power 'Beast on the Moon'

May 16, 1997|JANA J. MONJI

To the Turkish regime in the early 20th century, the "Beast on the Moon" was the Armenian problem and the solution was genocide.

Richard Kalinoski's play has some false moments and is a bit predictable, yet in this International City Theatre production, the raw emotionalism of two strangers struggling to become husband and wife while haunted by the past is compelling drama, particularly with such winning performances.

In 1921 Milwaukee, studio photographer Aram (Daniel Nathan Spector) brings home his 15-year-old picture bride Seta (Dyanne DiRosario), picked out of 37 photos he received. But Aram is a bit of an oaf, brandishing his Bible quotations like a weapon to subjugate his new "prize" into appropriate behavior and overly eager to start a family despite Seta's objections that she doesn't yet know him.

After years of disappointments and the chance meeting with an orphan boy, Vincent (glen beaudin), Aram and Seta eventually become a family.

Under caryn morse's direction, Spector manages to make Aram sympathetic, a man tortured by the past and unwittingly insensitive yet longing to be kind without showing weakness. (Nit-picking photographers, however, might not be convinced by his photographic technique.) DiRosario grows from a frightened child clutching a rag doll to a woman for whom being a grateful prize is not enough.

Yet beaudin throws the dynamics between Spector and DiRosario out of balance with his broad movements and speech. It's as if morse substituted volume and gesture for a more nuanced performance to represent brash youth.

The script is partly at fault here. Kalinoski's most contrived plot devices relate to Vincent. Not only is Vincent's mother in a sanitarium and his father dead, the young boy is also threatened by a priestly pedophile.

Still, nothing dims the wonderfully realized performances by Spector and DiRosario.

* "Beast on the Moon," International City Theatre, Clark Street and Harvey Way, Long Beach City College, Long Beach. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Ends June 15. $20. (562) 938-4128. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

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