For the first few minutes of his beauty (written by Ashley Jacobson and directed by Nadine Friedman) it’s almost impossible to understand what’s going on - all that’s obvious is that a couple is fighting. Soon enough, however, you realize that that’s pretty much all you need to know. The fact that they’ve stepped out of a bar (or a party, or a friend’s house) really doesn’t matter. All that matters is that she’s considered to be, by all around her, a Beauty . . . His Beauty. And he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her in her place by reminding her as often as he can that she belongs to him. That is, when he’s not telling her to stay away from him because she “smells like slut”.
The couple, Pete (Sean Linehan) and Cecily (Fabianne Meyer), proceeds to push/pull their way through this kind of dance that’s violent at times . . . vulgar at times . . . funny at times. Clearly, neither of them are likable, and the fact that they bring out the worst in each other doesn’t mean that they’re much nicer when they’re apart.
In a pure power-move Pete leaves Cecily by the side of the road, still searching for her shoe, as he goes in search of something else. That “something else” turns up in the form of Jacalyn (Dondrie Burnham): A don’t-bother-coming-hither-I’ll-come-over-there type gal who is gamely on the prowl while her cop husband is working the night shift.
Cut to . . . cop husband, Carl (James B. Kennedy) working the night shift and just happening upon the lovely Cecily. These are the kinds of people who are roaming around at 3:0oam. Of the 4 dysfunctional people Carl is actually the most sympathetic and almost speaks for the audience when – in reaction to why Cecily refuses to blame Pete for abandoning her by the side of the road, in the dark - shakes his head and says “I don’t get it”. Which isn’t to say that it’s impossible to understand people who need to hurt each other with the same intensity with which they claim to love each other, it’s just uncomfortable to watch it play out in front of you.
Like a form of flu, Pete and Cecily spread their sick mating ritual to Jacalyn and Carl, insulting and diminishing their evening’s prey in order to romantically prime them. It works surprisingly well, proving – at least in this small universe – that self hatred and loathing and violence and demeaning language passes for foreplay and phrases like “it’s okay, I don’t want to be here either” is an adequate substitution for sweet nothings.
Throughout his beauty the four principles give everything they’ve got, and with a climax that has you holding your breath they certainly have you invested – even though you can’t quit squeeze out a tear when one of them gets a little too close to the business end of a deadly weapon.
While the play certainly poses a lot of questions, possibly the best answer it delivers is “no”. As in “no . . . you don’t have to turn into any of these people”. For those watching who find themselves in relationships that echo what they see, this might be the best wake up call to get out, and get out fast – it will only end badly. For the rest, this play will show you that every boring night you’re spending on the couch Netflixing another episode of The Office and falling asleep to the news is another night you’re not trying to wipe the residue of yet another grimy relationship like that of Pete and Cecily off the bottom of your shoe.
Produced by Ashley Jacobson benefiting Sanctuary for Families
Written by Ashley Jacobson
Directed by Nadine Friedman
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Venue: The Gene Frankel Theatre, 24 Bond Street
Sat 6/5 @ 9pm
Mon 6/7 @ 5:15pm
Sat 6/12 @ 3pm
Mon 6/21 @ 7pm
Fri 6/25 @ 7pm
Sat 6/26 @ 3:30pm