Some theatergoers may be a little gun shy when it comes to Salt Lake Acting Company, due to its reputation for highly controversial plays . . . things like "La Cage aux Folles" and "Angels in America."
But SLAC also produces warm, intimate little dramas and comedies - plays that a sizable majority of the so-called "conservative" segment would enjoy.Like "Beast on the Moon."
The central characters in this poignant drama - a young Armenian couple struggling to adapt to life in the melting pot called America in 1921 - aren't much different from the hardy folks who helped tame the Utah frontier or who streamed through Ellis Island.
The setting for the story of Aram and Seta Tomasian is Milwaukee, Wis., between 1921 and 1933.
In episodic fashion, Kalinoski has taken bits and pieces gleaned from stories passed on by dozens who fled the Turkish holocaust in Armenia and woven them into a tale of Old World stubborness clashing with New World realities.
Directed by Marilyn Holt, the small cast delivers a mesmerizing glimpse at a time and place that is foreign to many people today.
Mark Gollaher plays Aram, a photographer who is arrogantly steadfast in his old Armenian ways. Patrizia Peterson is Seta, his mail-order bride of 15, who is at first bewildered by her new surroundings - a tiny, sparsely furnished flat that must seem like a castle compared to her simple life in strife-torn Armenia.
Bob Ormsby is the Gentleman, who narrates gaps between the various scenes and explains unique aspects of Armenian history (including the title).
"Gar oo chugar," he says at the very beginning. "There was . . . and there was not," he translates.
During the next two hours, the audience learns that there was . . . a young couple from Armenia. But there was not . . . much of a loving, compassionate relationship.
Aram is the head of the household. Seta's place is to be subservient to him. Period.
Like the Turks, who once shot their guns at frightening beasts on the moon (shadows created by an eclipse), Aram and Seta battle their own personal beasts - his resentment that she is barren and unable to produce any offspring and her own growing frustration.
Aram and Seta are joined midway through the play by Vincent, a feisty street urchin of 12 or 13, who has run away from St. Bartholomew's Orphanage.
David Fetzer plays Vince with ample amounts of spunk and grit (and some colorful street slang).
SLAC's Upstairs Theatre is the perfect setting for this intimate, gentle drama. Kevin Myhre's scenery and costumes reflect the siple lifestyle of an immigrant family in America in the 1920s.
David Evanoff's sound and Eric Craft's lighting (both operated by Matt Dobrosky) and Michael Adamson's hair designs all add to the show's period feel.
- Sensitivity rating: Some tastefully handled sexual innuendo (when Aram is anxious to get Seta pregnant) and a small amount of profane street talk (Vince).