You, reader, should have been there! But in case you weren’t, shame on you, and here’s a little re-cap of what you missed.
Charles Mee’s Big Love: A show about fifty brides, fifty grooms, tomatoes, girls in their underwear, men in dresses and wedding night chainsaw massacres. In other words, this dark comedy based on Aeschylus’s The Suppliants, follows the stories of three brides (wholly representing themselves and the other forty-seven) through their escape from Greece and contractual obligations to marry their cousins from America.
Photo Credit: Marissa Cannon. Thyona, (Kaitlin Kemp) Lydia (Emily McHale) and Olympia (Brittany Cinaglia) performing Lesley Gore's famous song, "You Don't Own Me."
Thyona, (Kailtin Kemp) a strong-willed, viciously independent feminist, leads the pack throughout the show with frequent reassurances that men are nothing but selfish creatures after power and ownership. Olympia, (Brittany Cinaglia) the feminine, optimistic, hopeless romantic, counters her sister’s blunt generalizations with whimsical monologues surrounding the dynamics of attraction, true love and kind-hearted men. Finally, Lydia, (Emily McHale) completes the circle as a wide-eyed, naive believer in romance and good intentions, balancing the acknowledgement of evil with the hope of good.
Photo Credit: Marissa Cannon. Pierro (Joe Napolitano) and Bella (Jenna Kuerzi)
The women flee to Italy, where they are apprehensively taken in by an older man, Pierro (Joe Napolitano) and his mother, Bella (Jenna Kuerzi). Bella’s character provided a wide spectrum of comedic relief (in her personal recollections of her thirteen sons) and mildly tragic, always resonating wisdom. Her relationship with her oldest son, Pierro, was portrayed brilliantly in a ever-so-subtle Oedipus manner, while he tended to her every whim despite his wishes to find love and marriage against his mother’s firm grip of ownership.
Photo Credit: Marissa Cannon. Guliano (Christopher Bratek) performing "Ave Maria."
Meanwhile, Bella’s grandson, Guliano, embraces his femininity, the essence of love in an untraditional sense and delivers a striking monologue about accepting oneself exactly as one is. And he does a lot of it through a story about barbie dolls and S&M!
(Left to right) Olympia (Brittany Cinaglia), Oed (Anthony Crosby), Lydia (Emily McHale), Nikos (Dexter Anderson), Thyona (Kaitlin Kemp), Constantine (Felix Corli IV). Photo Credit: Marissa Cannon.
The cousins, Constantine, (Felix Corli IV) Oed, (Anthony Crosby) and Nikos (Dexter Anderson) return to “rescue” their damsels, and when it appears that Pierro is attempting to strike a deal with them, the sisters formulate one of their own. If their father, their country, and strangers can’t protect them, they will defeat these men with the method they seem to understand: force. The three agree (some more than others) to murder their husbands on their wedding nights. And then all hell breaks loose.
Photo Credit: Marissa Cannon.
Only Lydia manages to find meaning in her relationship with Nikos, which had been building behind the sisters’ backs throughout the show. Much to the others’ rage, she refuses to kill her husband and instead consummates her marriage, on stage. Yeah, I said that. The two are eventually sent off wish warm regards after some convincing and a mock trial, the murder of 49 men go unnoticed, and the rest of them lived happily ever after.
In the words of Bella, “There will be no justice.”
All in all, the play openly tackled many of society’s issues: immigration, the definition and restraints of love, individuality, self-acceptance, the tolerance of gay love and – of course – women’s rights. Can feminism and marriage co-exist? Can masculinity and sensitivity coexist? What unacknowledged pressures exist behind the definition of being a man? Who is a woman to turn to when the law fails to protect her in a man’s world?