Douglas Aibel, Artistic Director
Bardo S. Ramirez, Managing Dir. * Jennifer Garvey-Blackwell, Exec. Dir.
By NICKY SILVER
February 24 – March 28, 2004
Directed by TERRY KINNEY
Sets RICHARD HOOVER
Costumes MICHAEL KRASS
Lighting DAVID LANDER
Original Music & Sound Design OBADIAH EAVES
Production Stage Manager RACHEL J. PERLMAN
Press Representative SAM RUDY
Isaac – Steven Pasquale
Delia – Alexandra Gersten Vassilaros
Harry – George Grizzard
Nan – Penny Fuller
Dr. Elizabeth Hilton/Victor’s Mother – Kaitlin Hopkins
BEAUTIFUL CHILD is, in many ways, a difficult piece of theater. The subject matter, though ripe with shock value potential, is not structurally problematic, and provides for a deep well of potential conflict. However, the ultimate repercussion for what the audience should characterize as criminally deviant behavior is so dramatically unsatisfying that it diffuses all of the solid material, stellar performances and thought-provocation that comes before it.
So as not to undermine the experience for any potential attendees, I will only say that one character admits to having fallen in love, and that the object of affection is someone rather younger than not of age. That is the crux of the conflict in BEAUTIFUL CHILD, but the unfortunate reality is that playwright Nicky Silver seems to have opted to ignore all of the obvious questions in favor of diving right into the unsettled domesticity being portrayed. Yet, when pedophilia is introduced, how can we not wonder about legal status, police inquiries, and the rest? If the admitted perpetrator has come home for protection, is it really likely that the authorities will never appear on the parental doorstep? Then there is the denouement!
These issues aside, there is a lot of talent at play in BEAUTIFUL CHILD. Steven Pasquale portrays Isaac, a teacher who becomes too involved with a student and seeks refuge at his parents’ home. Pasquale’s interpretation of this character is so sedated and genuine that we are able to see Isaac’s actions from his point of view and almost feel sorry for him. Not an easy task. As his parents, Penny Fuller and George Grizzard deliver layered, complex performances. Alexandra Gersten Vassilaros as the kooky secretary, Delia, and Kaitlin Hopkins in a dual role serve to round out the ensemble nicely. Then there is the production team, who only enhance the events. The lighting is moody, the set and costumes are just right, and the music is eerie and soothing simultaneously.
The beautiful child of BEAUTIFUL CHILD refers to Issac, and what he once was and perhaps still is to his parents, as well as to those innocent children out there, who have no physical presence in this play, but of whom the audience is decidedly aware for a large part of the two acts. In a style that alternates between quiet reminiscences and dark, angry moments, BEAUTIFUL CHILD is perhaps strongest when dramatizing the verbal battles between Grizzard and Fuller. These exchanges are so heated and hurtful that I could not help but recall scenes from Albee’s WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? On the other end of the spectrum, the action is often suggestive of the more modern sensibilities of something like a Lifetime movie of the week, wherein the essence of the tale is based on reality, but certain elements have been added or deleted for dramatic purposes.
By the end, whatever path has been taken, the audience finds that what starts out as a most promising and interesting journey falls into shockingly unsatisfying waters. BEAUTIFUL CHILD, for all of the talent behind it comes undone at the end. The curious may want to see it in spite of the final outcome. If you do, be advised that this is very adult subject matter.
- Kessa De Santis -