Beloved: A Review
Three central characters exist on stage at Theatre Row’s Lion Theatre. They are all participants in a highly charged emotional love triangle. Each one has a distinct part to play and their demanding wills are all expressed through one powerhouse actor that delivers a career launching performance.
Scandinavian American Theater Company’s production of Beloved tells the story of food court working Katerina, her indifferent fork lift driving boyfriend Mattias, and her mysterious opera house conductor lover Adam. We discover her in her grandmother’s cabin in the woods packing, and unpacking, and repacking her bags, her books, and her memories. She begins her recollections with the start of a stopwatch and a reminder that time is of the essence. What follows is her recollections of how these three individuals found themselves thrown together and the prices that were paid for their mutual rejections and indiscretions. She quotes Spinoza and other greats from her collection of books, while listening to the music of Mahler all while peppering her patter with foul mouthed expletives and raw sexuality.
Katerina is a coquettish and flighty character that charms in an eerie way that makes you begin to ponder if any of this is real. Is this really granny’s house? Is she really packing and unpacking for a journey, a further purpose, or is she escaping the wolf that will soon be at the door? Or is this all an illusion. Is she in a jail cell carrying out her sentence for a crime committed, or is she in an institution confined there by her own giddy madness while she relives the moments that brought her there?
Beloved is bewitching and beguiling. A great deal of the credit for that goes to Ellinor DiLorenzo as Katerina. Her performance is so unique that she elevates the material and the production beyond its constraints. The script written by Lisa Langseth and translated from the original Swedish by Charlotte Barslund while entertaining plows no new ground. There are some deeply revelatory moments and deliciously wicked turns in this dark Scandinavian comedy but the rest is framed within a tried and true romantic triangle. DiLorenzo manages to elevate the material with a performance that is hypnotic in its coy charm and malevolent in its seductive wit. She brings the players clearly to life making them interesting to watch and keeping our further interest piqued.
There’s also a feeling of applied constraint from director Kathy Curtiss that DiLorenzo manages to surpass at times but seems to be held back by at others. There are emotional land mines being laid here for the actor to trigger but they’re never really given the timing to set them off properly. There’s a moment towards the end where Katerina lets loose a maddening howl of a scream as she begins to throw a few of her books about the room. The moment passes quickly. One is left to imagine how much more cathartic that moment might have been, for both the character and the audience, had she had been allowed to tear the whole room apart.
In the case of Beloved, the supporting design team play a significant role in bringing Katerina’s storytelling to life. Set and costume designer Lisa Renee Jordan’s costumes are layers of emotional revelation. As her musings progress Katerina removes pieces of clothing and applies others going from demure, to playful, to threatening. Jordan’s single multipurpose setting makes for an efficient use of the space and provides a well decorated cage for DiLorenzo to prowl around in. Lighting designer Evan Kerr and sound designer Rychard Curtiss work in tandem to accent Katerina’s musings and their work is exceptional.
Beloved should be seen and seen quickly due to its limited run. It’s worth the price of admission and worthy of your attention. There’s a great deal going on during its almost ninety-minute run time. There’s a theatrical company coming into its own. There’s material being worked and molded with the very real possibility of future greatness. There’s also a new young talent with a unique voice being born and that’s always a wonder to watch.