by Peter Diamond
Escaping marriage to their 50 cousins in Greece, 50 brides flee to the home of the warm and friendly Piero, played by junior Ian Lund.
This story has existed since around 490 B.C.E. when Aeschylus wrote it as a Greek comedy entitled “The Danaides,” loosely translated as “The Suppliant Woman.” Contemporary playwright Charles Mee’s adaptation of the ancient comedy, “Big Love,” directed by seniors Caleb Bromberg and Katharine Norris, goes up tonight at 7:30 in the little theatre and will be performed through Saturday. More information and tickets are available at theatreink.net.
Like “The Danaides,” Mee’s adaptation has the same basic storyline and deals with the topics of love and gender, but with a modern-day spin, featuring helicopters, contemporary comedic styles and a brief excerpt from a Lesley Gore song.
A must-see production, “Big Love” battles with romance, gender and moral character using an age-old story in a modern, forward-thinking style of theatre. Still, on top of the intrigue of the play itself, what shines through consistently is strong acting, directing and design.
The play focuses on three of the aforementioned sisters: Lydia the hopeless romantic, played by sophomore Emma Hanselman; Olympia the fanciful, played by sophomore Bethany Lehman; and Thyona the warrior, played by freshman Natalie Tereshchenko.
Each of the three brides develop her own wonderful character. Hanselman portrays Lydia with consistent confused romance that is visible in her eyes, body and voice. Lehman experiments with an unusually seductive balance between lust and adorable innocence, resulting in a dynamic, thought-provoking characterization. Tereshchenko’s emotional conviction throughout the entire play makes her truly a pleasure to watch.
The sisters are fleeing from suitors. Nikos, Lydia’s suitor, is played by sophomore Simon Wolfe, and Oed, Olympia’s suitor, is played by junior Jonathan Kim. Constantine, the misogynistic alpha male following Thyona, is played by senior Sam Bell-Gurwitz. Hoping to marry, the three follow their love interests to Italy, where Piero’s home is situated.
All three of the almost-grooms-to-be display incredible dedication to their roles. Wolfe’s true love for Lydia is, through his subtle gesticulations and romantic vocal tones, constantly clear. Kim as Oed created passionate moments of love and rage by being completely unafraid of making strong physical choices.
In the villa of Piero, the runaway brides meet several memorable characters: the bubbly, marriage-obsessed Italian couple, Leo and Eleanor, played by Lund and sophomore Lucy Aiken respectively, as well as Bella, a stereotypical Italian grandmother played by sophomore Kelsey Fox.
Giuliano, played by junior Sam Raby, is Piero’s nephew, a seemingly happy man who is scarred by years of lost love and missed opportunity. The character’s hidden heartbreak makes him perhaps the most complex character in the play.
Bell-Gurwitz managed to deliver an absolutely chill-breaking monologue in the middle of the play. In the speech, Constantine rationalizes his hostile behavior towards women by saying that “no one wants a good guy anymore.” You can practically watch as his veins attempt to escape the skin of his neck as he reaches emotional peaks.
Other truly impressive monologues included Fox’s, which she gives towards the beginning of the play. In the speech, she describes each of her 13 sons, representing each with a tomato. Fox’s physical comedy not only brings her to Bella’s grandmotherly age convincingly, but is also quite amusing.
Raby delivers a gorgeous soliloquy towards the middle of the show, sticking with the topic of romance, in which he describes a past love affair which ended in abandonment. By the time he uttered the final words, “Maybe that really was my chance, and I ran away from it because I didn’t know it at the time,” the audience felt tears rest in their eyes.
All this tension finally leads to a climax laden with blood, tears and maybe even a speckle of true love, something previously unseen in “Big Love.”
Apart from the acting, highlights included the sound design by sophomore Max Proskauer, featuring music and realistic effects and dresses designed and handmade by senior Gabbi Morgenstern and sophomore Sophie Sokolov.