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ACT II: A second look at area stages — ‘Beaten’ at Artistic Home

Eileen (Kathy Scambiatterra) Chloe (Kathryn Acosta) drink themselves silly “Beaten.” | ANTHONY AICARDI PHOTO

Eileen (Kathy Scambiatterra) and Chloe (Kathryn Acosta) drink themselves silly in “Beaten.” | ANTHONY AICARDI PHOTO

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‘BEATEN’

RECOMMENDED

When: Through Aug. 11

Where: The Artistic Home, 1376 W. Grand

Tickets: $32-$32 (suggested donation)

Info: (866) 811-4111; www.the artistichome.org

Run time: 2 hours and 15 minutes, with one intermission

The words “dark” and “dysfunctional” are routinely applied to scores of contemporary plays. But Scott Woldman’s “Beaten,” now in its world premiere by The Artistic Home, easily bests much of the competition. In fact, at times it is almost too painful to watch as a cast of five, under the direction of Katherine Swan, act the bloody stuffings out of it.

The pain in Woldman’s play is more psychological than physical, though there is certainly enough physical violence suggested and demonstrated. But it is the intimacy that intensifies it all as three generations of women, living under the same roof, seethe with the need for the love, acceptance and forgiveness that has either eluded them or been destroyed by them.

Chloe (Kathryn Acosta), bright, pretty and in a deep depression, is the youngest of the three. She has dropped out of law school and turned to poetry after her boyfriend, the professionally successful Jason (Joe Wiens), left her seriously injured. In a fit of rage, he pushed her down stairs, an “accident” that sent her to the hospital for a month.

Chloe’s mother, Madelynne (Kristin Collins), is a tense, bitter, long-divorced woman in middle age who works several jobs to keep the household afloat. She supports both her daughter and her mother, Eileen (Kathy Scambiatterra), and resents almost everything about her life. Eileen, who we learn was abused by her handsome, alcoholic husband many decades earlier, is now an angry, lonely woman suffering from cancer and smoking copious amounts of pot.

All three women are desperate for the love of their mothers. And, despite their most fervent efforts, Eileen and Madelynne are engaged in profoundly destructive relationships with their daughters. The closest bond here is between grandmother and granddaughter with Madelynne as the common enemy. This only exacerbates her feelings of being unloved and unappreciated.

Serving as both a crucial narrative voice and character is Greg (Conor McCahill), an intensely self-aware, self-lacerating nerd — brainy but lost, and hopelessly devoted to Chloe. Though loathed by Madelynne (who, despite everything, wants her daughter to marry Jason and have the well-to-do life she never had), and laughed at by Eileen, Greg displays a dogged persistence. It is not quite as altruistic as it might seem. And like everyone in this play, his pain is riddled with guilt.

Woldman certainly knows what makes people tick, and the actors here do a bravura job of getting under each other’s skin. But, like Leslye Headland’s “Reverb” (recently seen at Redtwist Theatre), “Beaten” very nearly crosses the line of endurance. Riveting, but not for the meek.

NOTE: The Artistic Home’s 2013-2014 season also includes: “The Goddess” (Oct. 6-Nov. 17), John Mossman’s adaptation of a Paddy Chayevsky screenplay about a young Hollywood actress; “Les Parents Terrible” (March 2-April 13, 2014), Jean Cocteau’s chronicle of an unstable family’s taboo behavior; and Sam Shepard’s “The Late Henry Moss” (June 22-Aug. 4, 2014).



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