CSU theater’s “Big Love” creates an intimate viewing experience

Walker Discoe

A small but respectable crowd filled every chair in the small, black-box theatre at the University Center for the Arts on Nov. 16. They were there to see “Big Love”, the sold-out show directed by Eric Prince, originally written by Charles Mee.

“Big Love” is based on the oldest living Greek play, “The Suppliants” by Aeschylus, and tells the story of 50 sisters who flee from Greece to avoid a forced marriage to their cousins, finding refuge at a villa in Italy.

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The performance, involving nearly a dozen performers, had a cast of unique and flawed characters. The CSU students playing these characters represented them all wonderfully, each bringing their own nuanced approach to the performance, playing into one another in ways that made the audience, laugh, gasp and even feel a little uncomfortable.

“Each character represents different views on humanity, gender, relationships, love, and justice,” wrote Holly Wedgeworth, junior theatre major and actress who played Lydia. “My character, Lydia, argues against Thyona, her sister, saying that love is vital for life. Lydia is an optimist about what humans are capable of, goodness, sympathy, and peace. This comes into play when her assigned husband, Nikos, admits to loving her and woos her, making her want to marry and choose love and forgiveness, instead of fighting for freedom of oppression with her sisters.”

“Big Love,” as the name suggests, deals with the difficulties of romantic entanglement, and doesn’t leave the opinions of the characters vague or open to interpretation. Central to the plot are the perceived discrepancies between men and women and their ideas about love and duty to one another.

“I think this show presents valid arguments that are healthy for people to hear whether they agree or not,” wrote Wedgeworth. “The script shouts ideals in extreme ways that we can be too afraid to talk about with one another due to their controversiality. I hope the show provokes good, respectful conversations about our society in ways that people can disagree yet still learn to live together and enjoy each other despite having differences.”

This idea is central to the play, and the disagreement between Lydia and Thyona runs deep and is artfully displayed on stage. Kathleen Wright, the actress playing Thyona, often appeared to truly lose her temper on stage, fully screaming at other characters. This is perhaps the greatest strength the performance displays.

In a play with a minimal set, small cast and proximity, the energy and commitment of the actors is crucial. The casting choices made were spot on, and it’s difficult to identify a weak link in the performer lineup, each giving a performance that felt more like a professional and expensive production than a university one.

However, “Big Love” is still a play that doesn’t take itself too seriously, despite the intense subject matter and dialogue. The final scene in which two of the brides murder their grooms is awkward and hilarious, mixed with a sincerity that makes a scene near impossible to stop watching. S

Several charters provide comic relief, and the pitch-perfect dialogue choices make the play believable, making the audience empathize with the characters.CSU’s performance of “Big Love” made for an interesting viewing experience, with moments of joy, terror, disgust and stark discomfort, all in an enjoyable and well-produced and performed form factor.

“My hope is that people can immerse themselves in the show and allow an open mind,” said Wedgeworth. “Don’t be afraid of the intimacy of the space and subject matter.”

Walker Discoe can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @wdiscoe.

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