By Beatrice Williams-Rude
The great Russia, poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko in commenting on translations observed that when they are beautiful they are rarely faithful and when they are faithful they are rarely beautiful. Therefore, given that I don’t speak Swedish, it’s difficult to know who should be held responsible, author, Lisa Langseth, or translator, Charlotte Barslund.
Beloved can be seen as a take on Shaw’s Pygmalion, were it written by Ibsen. Or Educating Rita through the lens of Strindberg. But Shaw, Ibsen and Strindberg were making moral statements. It’s difficult to find any socially redeeming value in Beloved.
This is a one-person work and Ellinor DiLorenzo’s performance as Katerina is nothing short of heroic. She’s alone on stage for 80 minutes. She takes us on her journey from ignorance to knowledge, from coarse to cultured. But her language doesn’t improve. How many times can we hear the same expletives describing the same situations without turning off?
Katerina, who works in the food court of a mall chopping peppers and carrots, wins a ticket to opening night at the opera. For the first time she sees how the upper class lives and even though she doesn’t like the opera—appreciation will come later–she likes the accoutrements, the august architecture and elegant audience.
She quits her job and miraculously snares the position of receptionist for the orchestra. This exposes her to the great music the orchestra is rehearsing and puts her in contact with Adam, the handsome young conductor. An affair ensues; never mind that they’re both married, the maestro seemingly happily as his wife gives him a second child during the course of his affair with Katerina.
We watch Katerina grow intellectually–reading Kant and Spinoza—and culturally—listening to Mahler, among others. However, she doesn’t grow in terms of character or compassion. She’s completely self-centered. Her mother is far more interesting, having interests beyond herself. We come to like Katerina less and less and any remaining sympathy/empathy is dissipated by her reaction to her husband’s death.
There are graphic descriptions of sexual activity yet they are not erotic. Surely the title, Beloved, is ironic. Katerina is well aware that she is just the latest of the maestro’s extra-marital playmates and that she won’t be the last. So who is whose “beloved”?
The excellent direction is by Kathy Curtiss. Sets and costumes are by Lisa Renee Jordan. The “underdressing” is clever: as the play proceeds Katerina sheds one ugly layer after another until she stands in a sleek, elegant, black, lace-trimmed undergarment.
Lighting director is Evan Kerr. Sound designer is Rychard Curtiss.
Beloved is being presented by the Scandinavian American Theater Company: producer and artistic director, Albert Bendix.
Photos: Kait Ebinger
Beloved opens on August 8 and plays through August 18 at The Lion Theatre at Theater Row, 410 West Forty-Second Street (between Ninth and Tenth Aves.) in Manhattan Running time is 80 minutes without intermission.