The action, told in flashback by an Older Gentleman (Cirigliano), begins in 1921 Milwaukee—six years after the genocide—and all scenes occur in the dining room of Aram Tomasian (Wali), an Armenian immigrant who has paid to bring over a 15-year-old Armenian orphan, Seta (Konstantulakis), to be his wife. Aram's prized possessions in the mostly bare room (designed by Adam Flemming) are his camera—he's a photographer like his father—and a framed, hanging family portrait, to which he has cut out the heads of his murdered relatives. His goal is to fill the portrait with a new family, though the idea of having many children turns out to be easier said than done. Cirigliano doubles as an Italian-American boy living in an orphanage, who receives motherly love from Seta.
At its core, "Beast on the Moon" is about the ways humans cope—or don't—with grief. Though Aram is an abrasive character, Wali finds subtle ways through gradual physical and vocal softening to make him more likable. Konstantulakis transitions smoothly through the passing years, replacing girlish mannerisms and giggles with quiet strength. And Cirigliano transforms into the young orphan without resorting to easy cartoonish imitations of a child. Kalinoski trusts the text and his performers, and he never overplays or rushes a scene, so the story unfolds with ever-increasing tension, leading to a thoroughly satisfying conclusion.
Presented by Malabar Hills Films at the Marilyn Monroe Theatre, Lee Strasberg Creative Center, 7936 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. Sept. 11–Oct. 17. Thu.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (323) 960-7784. www.plays411.com/beast.