by Steven Cherry · August 20, 2015
George Bartenieff, Beth Dzuricky | Laura Nash
Bed, Beth, and Beyond is indeed about beds (hospital, marital, and others), about the eponymous Beth Dzuricky, and about death and other matters that concern the beyond. But tomorrow night I’m reviewing a show called LoveStory, and it would be easy to get confused, because tonight’s story was mainly about love—love of mother, husband, lover, self, neighborhood, and, if it’s not too corny, life itself.
The show is also often about love’s opposites—embarrassment, shame, anger, alienation, rejection. (Remarkably, though, regret doesn’t, as far as I can recall, appear anywhere.)
The first act worked better for me, and perhaps not by coincidence it had the higher ratio of the negative to the positive. Dzuricky is funny as hell and endearing as a self-deprecating overweight four-eyes schoolkid, an oppressed niece to a tyrannical spinster aunt, and a wide-eyed newcomer to New York. Act I also did a remarkably good job of moving the story along by depicting individual moments; the second act had far more narrative.
Memoir is a tricky thing. It differs from autobiography in that it needn’t—and shouldn’t—tell a whole life story. It shares with fiction the conceit that it’s about one thing, and only includes what’s necessary to tell that singular story. Act II, then, suffered from a drift into autobiography. (The show could have been about or at least bookended by, Dzuricky’s relationship with her mother. The show starts with an early exchange between the two, and it could have ended with the mother’s death and the simultaneous end of Dzuricky’s marriage.) Dzuricky instead vaguely ties the story together with the ringing of chimes and lighting of candles to mark various milestones, but in at least one case I can’t say what the milestone was.
Nonetheless, the show is remarkable for what it achieves. Dzuricky has a genius not only for recalling utterly specific details of events decades old, and remembering how she felt at the time, but also for conveying those feelings by volume, tone, expression, gesture, and intonation. Her best moments evoked the laughters of recognition and sympathy—and there were many such moments.
She also earned the loudest and most sustained applause I’ve heard so far this year. Credit is due to her director (and, by way of disclosure, my uncle) George Bartenieff, and Dzuricky generously called him to the stage to share in the triumph.