Moral Dilemmas Discussed Frankly in BEAUTIFUL CHILD

by Walter Bender

Steve Gleich and Peter Zielinski in a scene from Fever Dream Repertory's BEAUTIFUL CHILD. (Photo credit: Matt Hurst)

Theatre is such an amazing medium. Comedies make us laugh, tragedies make us cry, classics make us remember the past, and dramas can affect us in so many different ways. Subjects that we as a society find difficult to discuss are on display, open and raw for us to view, experience and discuss later…or in my case, write a review about…

BEAUTIFUL CHILD is the latest offering from independent company Fever Dream Repertory. Harry and Nan (Steve Gleich and Nancy Segal) are a couple who are going through some serious issues with their marriage…Steve is having an affair with Delia (Brie Night), and Nan doesn’t care…she left the marriage emotionally long ago. Delia has fantasies about Steve running off with her, and she is clearly unstable.

Enter Isaac (Peter Zielinski), Steve and Nan’s son, who is an elementary school art teacher. Isaac asks if he can stay with them…he needs to hide, because he is having an affair with one of his students and is afraid that he is going to be arrested. Isaac sees nothing wrong with his relationship, believing he is in love with his student, and the age difference seems inconsequential to him. Steve and Nan must deal with this revelation and decide whether the love of a child means more than the horrors they imagine? Add into this another character who may or not be imaginary (Jamie McKittrick) and you have quite a mess for this family to deal with.

The subject matter in this show is obviously difficult. Portraying not only a decaying marriage, but an affair, pedophilia, and mental instability is quite a challenge. The cast of this production does what it can, but there are more questions after seeing it than answers.

The first act of the play seems a bit heavy-handed…while a bad marriage and an unstable mistress aren’t uplifting subjects, the lines would lend themselves to a little self-deprecating humor to make the theatrical experience more palatable to the audience. And I’m not sure whether it was the direction or the cast, but there seemed to be line issues in the performance, with the actors stepping on each others’ lines a bit too much to be accidental. At times I felt as if the cast was under-rehearsed, because of the line issues and a seeming lack of direction. The second act was better with regard to the lines, but the production still seemed to ramble with no direction until the last 10 minutes. When the final revelation comes, it seems rushed and improbable. The end came with a whimper…the audience was unsure whether the show was over or not until the lights faded.

BEAUTIFUL CHILD is a difficult play to perform, because of both the subject matter and the script. Perhaps with a bit more work this production will tighten itself up.

Written by Nicky Silver
Directed by Gary L. Day
January 20-February 4, 2012
Fever Dream Repertory
Second Stage at the Adrienne Theater
2030 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA

You may also like

Leave a Reply