Strawdog’s BIG LOVE Is Delivered In A Well-Wrapped Package
REVIEWED BY: JOSEPH HILLENMEYER
Strawdog Theatre Company is wrapping up it’s 25th season with a production that features 32 cast members, representing over 100 characters, all of whom are a metaphor for every man and woman in the universe. While it sounds confusing, anyone who has ever loved, lost, lusted or loathed another human being will understand.
Big Love, by Charles Mee and directed by Strawdog artistic associate Matt Hawkins, takes us to the Italian Villa of Piero, who has come to find 50 brides (all sisters) in his garden. The sisters have just sailed from Greece and wish to become refugees at his home as they flee from their cousins, to whom they are contractually obligated to marry.
Piero agrees to help them after a little persuading, but just then the jilted grooms arrive via helicopter (and with AC/DC playing over the speakers) to take back their brides. The grooms get their say about the marriage, mainly through the misogynistic Constantine, and agree that Piero should help the parties sort the whole matter out.
The cast condenses a little at this point and focus mostly on brides Olympia, Thyona and Lydia, and grooms Constantine, Nikos and Oed. The warring wedding party is joined by neutral players Eleanor, Giulano and Leo, who want us to believe that love and happiness conquer all.
However, while the cast of characters shrink, the plot expands; offering commentary on love, politics, the differences between men and women, submission and domination, ignorant bliss and the sad realities of life. At this point it sounds as if the story is trying to be too much, but both the script and the Strawdog cast deliver it in a well-wrapped package that is thought-provoking, funny, sad and in many ways true.
We share in a group observation of the institution of marriage and the emotion of love as they are dissected by hopeless romantics, rageaholics, feminists, conservatives and a widow. No question about it, Big Love takes a big-picture look at not just who, but how and why we love.
With such a large cast it would be difficult and unfair to suggest a standout role so it thankfully suffices to say that the production as a whole is what made the show so terrific. Strawdog’s unique theater setup, which seats the audience on two sides of the stage does well to close in Piero’s garden. The villa is well designed and it’s no question from the moment you take your seat what country you’re set in.
The freeze-frame monologues and larger group scenes were also greatly enhanced by exceptional music and lighting, and Dane Halvorson’s live piano playing in particular is a highlight of the show.
The play is around 100 minutes with no intermission, but very well paced and shouldn’t have you checking your watch. Strawdog’s production of Big Love runs through May 25 and tickets are available for $28 and may be ordered online at strawdog.org or by calling Ovation Tix at 866-811-4111. For calendar information please visitwww.TheatreInChicago.com