Catherine Filloux’s The Beauty Inside is an emotionally honest tale set amongst the cultural traditions of rural Turkey. The story centers around a 14-year-old girl who, after being raped by a neighbor, is the victim of a botched “honor killing” at the hands of her family. This “social play” serves as a complex window into a culture far outside the Western world, yet hints at parallels to our own society and has implications for our relations with cultures harboring traditional Islamic ideals.
The Turkish-American lawyer assigned to counsel young Yalova is Harvard educated but emotionally torn between East and West. Playwright Filloux, a French-Algerian, suggests similarities between the devout Yalova’s oppressive Islamic family and her lawyer’s relationship with a progressive father bullying her in the name of cultural advancement.
It’s a relief to see such economical storytelling — a kind of anti-Homebody/Kabul where characters say what they mean and action occurs at a lively pace. Only five actors grace the stage though it seems a dozen do — the characters are rich and cleanly drawn. An exceptional A-men Rasheed portrays eight different roles with subtle aplomb.
Translated into Arabic and presented in Morocco as part of an acting institute (where much of its treatment of Muslim culture was developed), The Beauty Inside joins a string of exceptional pieces performed at the 45 Below Culture Project space, along with Anne Washburn’s The Internationalist and The Exonerated (in the main space). These are not run-of-the mill productions, but theater with purpose.
The Culture Project, 45 Bleecker St.