"Big Love" at the Wells Metz Theatre is a quite literal life and death battle of the sexes in a production directed by John Maness.
Charles Mee based "Big Love" on the outline of the story that Aeschylus begins in his play "The Suppliants." Fifty women flee from a forced marriage with their cousins seeking sanctuary as refugees. In desperation the women make a pact to accept the marriage, but to murder their bridegrooms on the wedding night. All save one do. Despite a trial demanded by the now widowed sisters, love is ruled as ultimate grounds for action and clemency is awarded.
On one side in "Big Love" we have a representative trio of runaway brides. There’s the standup butch Thyona, Claire Smith, the comically silly but appealing Olympia, Tara Goldsborough, and the thoughtfully lovely Lydia, Melanie Derleth. On the other side there are three of the pursuing bridegroom. Like the brides they are a set of extremes with a golden mean. There’s the overbearingly conservative but energetically driven Constantine, Michael Borgmann, the loutishly perfect Oed, Ranveer Bhavnani and the somewhat more sensitive Nikos, Jason Nelson.
The brides and grooms to be, are hosted by, the gracious Piero, Jeff Montague, his warmly humane mother, Bella, Hannah Moss, and his charmingly ambivalent son Giuliano, Thomas Choinacky.
In Aeschylus’ time the comedy of a tetrology was in a separate goat play. "Big Love" actually weaves comedy throughout and Emily Chovanec and Dylan Weinberger made for a nicely embedded satyr play.
Like Aeschylus’s original, "Big Love" is full of extended speeches, complicated arguments and shifting points of view. Not a single speech was all true or all false. No character without sympathetic and critical points. Many of the impassioned speeches were simply too passionately delivered with too few variations. Toward the end of the two hour show, I gave up following them to just enjoy the drama. There is a lot to like about the IU production with a nicely executed set, an attractive cast in costumes that both look good and work as part of the drama and lots of creatively choreographed action.
Monday night’s near overflow crowd gave the cast and the production a standing ovation.
"Big Love" plays each evening this week in the Wells-Metz Theatre of the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center on the IU campus at the corner of Seventh Street and Jordan Avenue through Saturday.
You can find an interview with director John Maness and actor Melanie Derleth on our Arts Interviews page .