A definite short, sharp shock, The Beast is a dark counterpoint to Illusion's My Antonia, which is playing a few blocks away. This is an examination of the dark side of pioneer life, where even the seemingly endless tracts of land couldn't keep some people far enough apart.
[jump] Ryan Underbakke and the eight-performer company bring a vibrant and visceral vibe to the whole proceedings -- not to mention a few scenes of epic violence (but no blood).
For the piece, which tells the story of the Black Donnellys -- an Irish immigrant family that was ensnared in longstanding rivalries with their neighbors that eventually ended up in a number of deaths -- the action is brought to the usually tranquil climes of northern Minnesota. Things are fine in Run River, even as a quiet and rather violent family starts to squat on a tract of land. No problem, there's plenty of land around.
That is until the rightful owner shows up. In the end, a judge decides to split the property, forcing the two families to live side by side.
The result is pretty clear from the outset, but it is the journey that really takes flight here. There are the local townfolk, who show up as an absurdist chorus. Their regular routine is first interrupted by the newcomers, then shattered by the violence.
The most grisly parts of the show are left to the imagination. A narrator shares the horrors that a walker found the morning after one of the families was massacred. The finale illustrates a shootout via slow motion and an increasingly manic score from Sarah Green and Dave Rupel.
There isn't a moral at the end here (well, except maybe try to get along with your neighbors and don't murder them), and The Beast isn't a drag. It's a thrilling way to formally welcome Bedlam to its new home, and promises much more to come.
IF YOU GO:
9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
Bedlam Theatre Lowertown
213 E. Fourth St., St. Paul
For more information, visit online.