beast: a parable
nytheatre.com review by Mark DeFrancis
August 12, 2008
beast: a parable is a total surprise—and a good one at that. Playwright/director J. Julian Christopher has taken the overdone "two mismatched lovers in a bed" theme and turned it on its ear in a smart, juicy show with a great twist ending. That being said, it will be very hard to illustrate the particular joy of this piece without discussing the final moments, but you'll just have to trust me that it's well worth the trip. Check out beast if you get the chance so we can actually talk about it.
Having an interracial affair with a racist is tough. Marcus, a frustrated black man, is caught up in a jet-fueled affair with neo-Nazi Julia and surprise, all is not well. Julia, played by Jodi Van Der Horn-Gibson, sports a swastika on her chest and a series of racist arguments for every minority except African Americans. Marcus, performed by Dennis A. Allen, seems obsessed, however, with hearing her degrade him and maybe even drop the N word. They proceed to play out a game filled with booze, lust, and fetish which is eye-opening and compelling. Christopher is to be commended for finding and developing the right chemistry in his work. Though at times their physicality seems awkward, the couple is well-matched. Allen brings a powerful stage presence, great range, and has the good sense to choose his moments and make them count. Horn-Gibson brings less refinement, crafting a battered, embittered cynic who is both disarming in her frankness and sympathetic in her weakness.
Christopher knows what he is doing, and while a good part of this play seems to be trading in hackneyed messages about the contemporary racist and the problems of a rampant affair, it turns out to be a setup for a statement which digs far deeper and reveals an honesty that leaves its audience asking all the right questions. On top of that, concise writing ensures that this piece is under an hour in length. There isn't much more to say except that beast is a great choice for your FringeNYC-going this year.