The Theatre at AACC is currently offering Charles Mee’s Big Love, a play that first appeared in 2000 that historian turned playwright Mee said he wrote wanting “to go back to one of the earliest plays of the Western World and see how it would look today, see if it still spoke to the moment, and, of course, it does.”
A lifelong admirer of the contributions of ancient Greece, I had looked forward to Big Love for months and caught the opening night performance. For me, this play about refugees and gender discrimination, dysfunctional relationships and murder has relevance today.
As AACC coordinator of theater and the play’s director Lars Tatom says in his Director’s Notes: “We felt strongly that this was a voice we wanted to share, that the questions raised here were worth hearing and considering.”
However, it must be cautioned that Big Love is not for everyone, and in fact those under age 16 will not be admitted because of adult language and situations. At the other end of the spectrum, those over age 60 or anyone of modest tastes might be offended by the nudity in the opening scene.
Audiences looking for a fresh approach blending farce and opposing values freely expressed will find much to enjoy in Theatre AACC’s current production.
The plot tells the story of runaway brides who flee to an Italian villa after rebelling against their parents having arranged for them to marry their cousins. The brides ask villa owner and host Piero to give them asylum and to serve as arbitrator to the grooms who soon arrive by helicopter.
Brides and grooms have tantrums and confrontations as they rail against their fate before the brides agree on a plan to marry their grooms and murder them immediately afterwards. Having discovered she loves her groom, one bride reneges and later must face a trial for her crime of the heart.
In Theatre AACC’s production, the liveliest scenes are where the three brides display impressive athleticism as they hurl themselves around the stage to express their fury, shouting their anti-male invectives before they fall exhausted to the floor.
The grooms follow with an even more vigorous display of athleticism to fill the stage with heated fury and testosterone frenzy that creates frenetic excitement.
Sharply in contrast is another scene of equal power where reluctant bride Lydia (Claire Brooks) tentatively signals her interest in her would-be groom Nikos (Erik Alexis) as they express their budding affection through dance. In fact, actor Alexis consistently offers an outstanding performance that conveys his character Nikos’ genuine feelings for Brooks’ Lydia.
Other outstanding performances include actor Rashad Ferguson as Giuliano, who offers a warm version of the Rodgers and Hart classic “Bewitched, Bothered a Bewildered” which would have been even more impressive without the distracting echo. Zoe Sloan-Weiss projects well to make her every line intelligible, and Jerry Vess as Piero gives his always reliable performance.
Performances at Pascal Center for the Performing Arts are scheduled for tonight and Saturday, April 22 and 23, at 8 p.m. General admission is $15 and for senior citizens student and groups are $12 a piece. Tickets can be purchased at the box office.