Modern romantic comedies are no match for Big Love. The play, scripted by American playwright Charles Mee, adapts Aeschylus’ ancient Greek play The Suppliants in a striking, avant-garde, 21st-century fashion.
Foreshadowing of the often confused, exaggerated realism to come, Lydia, played by senior Bridget Saracino, opens the play sitting naked in a tub that she thinks is part of an Italian hotel.
Bella, played by Sarah K. Chalmers of the Actors’ Equity Assn., the mother of the house that Olympia ignorantly entered, finds her there and, without a beat, proceeds to describe her 13 sons with the convincing personality of an Italian mother to whoever is listening.
During this soliloquy, Lydia’s sisters enter the stage in wedding gowns and haphazardly throw plates and themselves around the stage in anger.
These sisters are three of 50 brides who fled from Greece to avoid marrying their 50 cousins. Big Love offers an amusing, unconventional commentary about deceit, betrayal and arranged marriage.
The three sisters are each dramatically different from each other. Thyona, played by senior Sharisse Taylor, portrays an angry man-loather. Olympia personifies the opposite, a feminine woman who simply wants a man to care for her. Lydia, played by senior Bridget Saracino, plays the role of the quiet girl with views somewhere between her divided sisters.
Taylor stands out as the dramatic ultra-stereotypical feminist, loudly and forcefully depicting her views with a vengeance, successfully persuading her sisters into her plots.
Symbolism, both in speech and action, plays a key role in the play. In conversation, when one of the women says a key word, the three of them voice it together in unison to highlight it. In addition, characters forcefully throw themselves on the stage throughout the play to depict anger and discontent.
Inevitably, the grooms show up to the house where the girls are staying soon after and try to force their brides into marriage.
Piero, played by David Studwell of the Actors’ Equity Assn., intermediates between the grooms and the brides as he is the father of the house. After initially being dumbfounded by these foreign brides asking him to take care of them, Piero quickly takes his position as the head of household in stride and ambitiously tries to make sense of it all.
The entire play has a rough, erratic feel to it — while there is a general plot progression, the play often switches between long elegant monologues and scenes of brute fighting without aim.
Yet, interactions between individual characters allow for some unity. While the grooms have never formally courted the brides, Nikos, played by junior James Miller, reveals his feelings for Lydia in an awkwardly authentic scene.
The two characters, seemingly unaware of how to show feelings for one another, bumble around for words naively as Nikos chases after Lydia across the stage in one of the few true moments of love in the play.
Giuliano, played by senior Myles Rowland, also offers a genuine look into the human character — he portrays the gay, confused, second favorite grandson of Bella. He often shows up to scenes unaware of the circumstances, hoping to enjoy the company of others.
Irony characterizes all of Big Love in one fell swoop, as misunderstandings and miscommunications let the play touch on many different subjects, eventually leading to a ninja-like death scene.
The excitement and energy on stage is accented and juxtaposed by a unique combination of classical music, pieces from the house ensemble of Daniel Burns, Brisa de Freitas and Krzysztof Haranczyk and modern classics such as Etta James’ “At Last.”
In true comedic fashion, the intensity of the plot is contrasted with the ending, in which the only bride who gets what she wants, Lydia, is the only one who doesn’t cause trouble throughout the play. Bella gets her chance to throw a wedding, Lydia and Nikos are betrothed and the other two brides are happily unhappy.
Big Love may not depict lots of love, but it captivates an audience with its emphasis on disorder, elaborate fighting and comedic interactions.
Correction: The original article incorrectly conflated the characters of Olympia and Lydia, and incorrectly identified Giuliano as Bella’s son.
Original Author: Chris Leo Palermino