The Theatre and Dance Department brought a lesson in love to the Allman Theater with the showing of Big Love, running from March 30th through April 3rd. Based off of the Greek play “The Suppliants” written by Aeschylus, Big Love follows the story of 50 brides who come to Italy to avoid being married to their 50 cousins—and fail.
The story begins with Lydia (Brittany Pirozzoli) taking a bath in what she presumes is a hotel. It turns out she has stumbled into the home of Piero (Cory Briner), his mother Bella (Natalie Kreft), and his nephew Giuliano (Joseph Carmelo). Lydia’s sisters Olympia (Brooke Turner) and Thyona (Tiffany Trapnell) join her shortly after.
The sisters think they are safe until the cousins arrive (in a realistic helicopter scene, I might add). Three brothers; Constantine (Austin Gonser), Nikos (Andrew Pope) and Oed (Drew Ross) convince Piero to let them marry at his home to the three sisters. Upon hearing this, the sisters make a pact to kill their husbands.
The wedding montage that follows starts off sweet with couples walking through the set and then branching off to eat cake. The blood bath comes when the couples pair off to open presents—except Lydia does not kill her husband, Nikos.
Outraged, the sisters take her to “court” with Bella acting as judge. The verdict comes that “love is the highest law” and the play ends with a second wedding for the couple.
Overall, I found the piece to be a thought-provoking and emotional ride.
Pirozzoli poured subtext and passion into her role creating a well-developed and charming Lydia. The nudity at the beginning of the production was, in my eyes, justified and added to the vulnerability of Pirozzoli’s character.
Pirozzoli and Pope worked well together establishing a believable love story throughout both acts. I could see the moment that they fell in love with each other in act one and they continued to build upon this in act two.
Turner shined as the flirtatious and romantic Olympia giving a sharp contrast to the powerful and lively Trapnell. Their counterparts, Ross and Gonser, matched them in terms of personality. Ross as the quiet yet strong Oed and Gonser as the fiery and commanding Constantine.
Bryner, the stereotypical Italian, worked with motherly Kreft and compassionate Carmelo to show the importance of family. The boisterous wedding planners Eleanor (Laney Hagy) and Leo (Eric Dahl) added to the hilarity of the show.
A highlight to the show was of course the wedding scene that included creative deaths with a chain saw and yellow balloon. The husbands died one at a time and were spread out between six couples, allowing the audience to absorb what was going on without becoming too confused.
The set, similar to that of a Zen garden, was used well and only added to the performance with actors pulling items from the sand. Beautiful costumes designed by Molly Huey brought out the concept of timelessness.
Sound, designed by Ryan Gajdos, and choreography by Cleo DeOrio worked hand in hand to add to the expressive aspect of the piece. Musicians Abbey Vensel, Anna Sylvester and Jason McGynn provided fantastic accompaniment, but almost overpowered the lines in some scenes.
Vocal projection was an issue on occasion mainly when the actors had their backs turned from me. This was also an issue in both scenes where the sisters and cousins threw themselves on the ground. The artistry and emotion were in these scenes, but a good chunk of the lines were lost.
Lighting designed by Courtney Wilkin used a variety of colors that helped add to the emotional intensity of scenes. However, I found it to be too dim most of the time, casting shadows over actors at most points.
Director Anjanette Hall did a wonderful job working with her cast and production crew to create this lovely production. Be sure to catch the final production of this year’s season, Enchanted April, running April 20-24 in the John Patrick Theater.