In her dramaturgical notes for BIG LOVE at Villanova Theatre, Jill Jacobs points out that in the source for the play, “. . . the chorus serves as both chorus and protagonist. Playwright, Charles L. Mee focuses on a modern version of this conceit from Greek Drama to show that the tension between men and women has changed little from the times of the ancient Greeks. Fortunately for Mee, his sometimes disjointed work is in the excellent hands of director, Harriet Power.
The story of BIG LOVE begins as fifty daughters contractually betrothed to fifty male cousins, escape on their wedding day to Italy refusing to be forced into marriage. They are followed there by their fifty cousins and in the villa of a wealthy Italian bachelor, the arguments are made. Playwright Mee claims, “My plays are broken, jagged, filled with sharp edges.” Power and her stellar cast turns BIG LOVE into a playful, edgy discussion of the big ideas surrounding marriage and the tensions between the sexes.
Three of the brides are used to represent various perspectives of the women while three of the grooms represent the counterpoint perspectives of the men. As the trio of brides Sophia Barrett (Lydia), Hallie Martenson (Thyona), and Megan Winch (Olympia), concomitantly share a sisterhood and an individuality that even more professional actresses might find daunting. They do it with ease and sureness.
The three grooms Mitchell Bloom (Nikos), Kyle Fennie (Constantine), and Zachary Sherry (Oed) mirror the sisters, delineating their desire to have them as brides and the pressures they feel as males to be hunters rather than gatherers. Power—with the assistance of Choreographer and Movement coach, Sarah Sanford and Sound Designer, John Stovicek –creates a canvas of contemporary movement and music on which to paint the big ideas of the show.
The rest of the strong cast supports the pair of trios. Three however stand out. Stephen Tornetta (Giuliano) plays a character akin to a Shakespearean wise fool. His androgynous character allows him to comment about both sides. Ahren Potratz (Piero) plays the generous uncle who tries to arbitrate the differences. His sensitivity cannot overcome the fierce feelings on both sides. Lastly, Meg Trelease (Bella) is the wizened mother of Piero who serves as the judge, deciding the fate of Lydia and Nikos who have moved past the rhetoric to find true love. Trelease is a wonderful foil for both sides and infinitely charming in the process.
Villanova provides their typically strong technical support using the small stage with clever lighting and representative properties to create the atmosphere of a large Italian villa. BIG LOVE runs until November 23rd at Vasey Hall.
by Charles L. Mee
Based on “The Suppliant Women” by Aeschylus
Directed by Harriet Power
November 11—23, 2014
Villanova Theatre-Vasey Hall
800 Lancaster Avenue @ Ithan Avenue
Villanova, Pa 19085