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Adjusted Realists at A.R.T./New York Theatres, New York City

The Beyoncé
5.0Reviewer's Rating

Eliza Bent’s “The Beyonce” is likely to excite fans of both Chekhov and intimate theater. The set (designed by Sam Transleau with admirable attention to Chekhov’s “The Fiancee”, on which the play is based) cozily fills the two-sided audience layout. It is at once a lanai and a modest dining room that certainly might have once belonged to Irina Arkadina (the matriarch of Chekhov’s “The Seagull”), and a kitchen, where the only set piece that betrays the late 19th-century Russian décor is the microwave. We see Nadia (our protagonist, a delightful and not-quite-naïve Regan Sims) and a man we can only take to be her lover. They hold hands, and whisper as if keeping their love a secret, but they never share a kiss. We can see in Nadia’s intelligent and searching eyes how much she wants from him, and from the rest of the world, but can she have both?

Nadia knows she must choose between the two, but the story is not one of love forlorn, against the crushing odds of the dangers on the outside. The world created by Bent and director Stephen Kaliski is built with love, a non-threatening retreat where Nadia can contemplate and decide. The tug within Nadia is whether to become a stay-at-home wife and mother, or use her intuitive nature to attend university and become an anthropologist. Nadia knows each has both truths and consequences, but she doesn’t know which is truest to her heart’s calling.

Bent is smart to explore this, because she knows that, especially in this new age of resistance, all her audience members feel the need to serve somehow in some way. The sincerity Nadia exudes makes it impossible to judge her, and Bent so skillfully tickles the audience with her witty banter. It’s irresistible, and poignant exactly where it needs to be.

Is Nadia being selfish by committing herself to a “radical act of self-care” (as is said by her to-be father-in-law)? This question is so thoroughly and entertainingly explored by the progressive, non-committal vegan Sasha (Roger Manix, playing a hipster you actually want to spend time with), the laid-back grandma Gran Marfs (played with witty and moving tact by Maggie Low), the weary housemaid Consuelo (wonderfully nuanced by Andrea Aranguren) and most outrageously by her mother, Nina (an eccentric Rachel McPhee). They are all so recognizable, and make it so much harder for Nadia to choose.

One feels, by the end of the play, that all roads led to where Nadia ends up standing. The prose gifted to her by Bent is so pure and spell-binding that the story points not to Nadia’s decision, but to the power that lies in committing oneself to a path, and living entirely for the moment as it comes. To experience these themes playfully and movingly expressing themselves in this world is an absolute treat.

  • Drama
  • By Eliza Bent
  • Directed by Stephen Kaliski
  • Cast includes: Regan Sims, Roger Manix, Rachel McPhee, Maggie Low, Jeremiah Maesas, Rolls Andre, Andrea Aranguren
  • Adjusted Realists at A.R.T./New York Theatres, New York City
  • Until 18 August 2018

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