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Beaten at the Artistic Home: Theater review

Scott Woldman's searing new drama examines domestic abuse across three generations of women.

 (Photograph: Anthony Aicardi)
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Photograph: Anthony Aicardi

Kathryn Acosta and Conor McCahill in Beaten at the Artistic Home

 (Photograph: Anthony Aicardi)
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Photograph: Anthony Aicardi

Kathy Scambiatterra, Kathryn Acosta and Conor McCahill in Beaten at the Artistic Home

 (Photograph: Anthony Aicardi)
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Photograph: Anthony Aicardi

Kathy Scambiatterra and Kathryn Acosta in Beaten at the Artistic Home

 (Photograph: Anthony Aicardi)
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Photograph: Anthony Aicardi

Kathy Scambiatterra and Kathryn Acosta inBeaten at the Artistic Home

 (Photograph: Anthony Aicardi)
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Photograph: Anthony Aicardi

Kristin Collins and Kathryn Acosta in Beaten at the Artistic Home

 (Photograph: Anthony Aicardi)
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Photograph: Anthony Aicardi

Kristin Collins and Kathryn Acosta in Beaten at the Artistic Home

 (Photograph: Anthony Aicardi)
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Photograph: Anthony Aicardi

Joe Wiens and Kristin Collins in Beaten at the Artistic Home

 (Photograph: Anthony Aicardi)
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Photograph: Anthony Aicardi

Kathy Scambiatterra, Conor McCahill and Kathryn Acosta in Beaten at the Artistic Home

 

When does "I love you" lose its meaning? When does "I'm sorry" become just another bullshit excuse? The women of the Sinclair family all have different answers to those questions in Scott Woldman's searing new drama. Exploring the aftershocks of domestic abuse across three generations living under one roof, Beaten is a bleak piece that ultimately paints all its characters in a negative light. It’s also incredibly funny, with Woldman's refreshing sense of humor preventing the play from wallowing in despair.

Woldman's experience as a comedy writer (as in his recent Dates from Hell at Redtwist Theatre) informs the pacing of his first drama. Moments of tension are often softened by a joke or off-color remark from Eileen (a ferocious Kathy Scambiatterra), the cancer-stricken Sinclair matriarch who chooses marijuana over chemotherapy. When Eileen first appears, she's carving a pipe out of a potato, and she only becomes more entertaining once she switches to the glass bong in the fridge. 

Eileen is a stark contrast to her uptight daughter Madelynn (Kristin Collins) and wounded granddaughter Chloe (Kathryn Acosta), who's back living at home after her ex-boyfriend put her in the hospital. While the characters are initially frustrating, as more details of the past emerge, the motivations for their extreme behavior become clear.

Nerdy narrator Greg (Conor McCahill) is like a forgotten cast member of The Big Bang Theory living next door to the August: Osage County house. Woldman milks Greg's interloping for humor, particularly in his interactions with Eileen. While Greg's transitional monologues help the audience sympathize, they interrupt the play's momentum and put McCahill in an overly presentational mode that conflicts with the more realistic scene work. The Sinclair women are the focal points of the show, and Greg's inner musings aren't captivating enough to pull away from the family drama.

Madelynn's insistence that her daughter forgive and take back the man who abused her doesn't make sense until her own tragic situation with Chloe's father is revealed. Much of that information doesn't show up until the second half, but all three actresses carry the burden of that long-gestating emotional turmoil from the very start.

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