HILBERRY’S “BIG LOVE” IS A FAST-PACED AND FUN BATTLE OF THE SEXES

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Sarah Hawkins Moan (left) as Lydia, Megan Barbour as Olympia and Danielle Cochrane as Thyona portray three reluctant brides fleeing from their prospective grooms in “Big Love” now through Dec. 7 at the Hilberry Theatre on the Wayne State University campus in Detroit. 

By SUE SUCHYTA

  Wherever you are in time and space, as long as there are men and women, the battle of the sexes will continue unabated. Sometimes funny, and sometimes sad, we can all take away lessons from the comedies and dramas that play out on local stages.
On the Wayne State University campus, the graduate level Hilberry Theatre presents Charles Mee’s, “Big Love,” a dark comedy based on one of the world’s oldest plays, “The Suppliant Women” by Aeschylus. You if you think an adaptation is destined to be dull, think again.
Set in the present day, brides in arranged marriages flee their country, pursued by their arranged grooms. Funny and terse in turn, the play explores human rights abuses, gender politics, domestic violence and love.
  The show is vibrant, fast-paced and well acted, with sophisticated tech, and brings out many sides of a story of reluctant brides running from persistent grooms.
“Big Love” plays at the Hilberry, Wayne State University’s graduate-level theatre now through Dec. 7, with 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday shows and 2 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday matinees.
Tickets are $12 to $30, and are available through the box office, at 4743 Cass at Hancock in Detroit, by phone, 313-577-2972, or online at wsushows.com. For more information, go to http://theatre.wayne.edu.
The show, directed by Blair Anderson, features Sarah Hawkins Moan as Lydia, Megan Barbour as Olympia and Danielle Cochrane as Thyona, three runaway brides.
Annie Keris plays Bella and Eleanor, a mother and a foreign houseguest respectively, while Brandy Joe Plambeck portraying Piero, the homeowner where they seek refuge, and Leo, a flamboyant weekend guest. Topher Payne plays Guiliano, one of Bella’s sons. David Sterritt plays Constantine, Brandon Grantz plays Oed and Brent Griffith plays Nikos, the three pursuing grooms.
Each company member captures the unique personality traits of their character, and displays them in myriad entertaining ways.
As Thyona, one of the runaway brides, Cochrane exudes a palpable, edgy anger, while Barbour, as Olympia, is more of a follower. She plays a ditzy blonde who doesn’t want to be bossed around, but who really likes men – a girly-girl who loves to flirt and who enjoys the attention it earns her.
Moan, as Lydia, is on precarious middle ground. Although she also resents being forced into an arranged marriage, she still believes in love, and is swayed when her prospective groom, Nikos, played by Griffith, admits he has been in love with her from a distance for years.
The other two perspective grooms parallel the brides’ personalities – Sterritt plays the angry, determined and driven Constantine against Cochrane’s equally resistant Thyona, while Grantz as Oed (pronounced Ed, perhaps humorously short for Oedipus) is more of a follower like Barbour’s Olympia.
Keris is delightful as Bella, the estate’s Grand Dame, who is a surrogate mother to the reluctant brides. Her descriptions of her many sons, using tomatoes to physically represent her love and frustration for them, is a hilarious yet telling scene. She is equally at home playing a visiting houseguest, acting as big sister and best friend to the troubled trio of women.
Plambeck portrays Piero, the estate’s owner, a savvy, yet conservative businessman, and Leo, a flamboyant house guest.
Payne is fun to follow as the exuberant and likely gay younger son of Bella.
The beautiful set, which incorporates projections upon high upstage white drapes, is the work of Leazah Behrens. The lighting and sound designs, by Thomas Schraeder and
Samuel Byers respectively, significantly enhance the production as well. The helicopter sound of the pursuing grooms is a classic touch.
The costumes, designed by Anne Suchyta, further bring out each character’s personality. The ones that end up soaked with stage blood must also be easy to wash between Saturday matinee and evening performances.
The show is fun to watch, quick paced, and brings out each character’s spins on their own battle of the sexes, as well as the forces driving their personalities and desires.
The talented company will run “Big Love” in rotating repertoire with Moliere’s “A Doctor in Spite of Himself,” which opens Nov. 15 and runs select dates through Feb. 8, with Dec. 7 the closing date of “Big Love.”
For more information about the program, go to www.cfpca.wayne.edu/theatreanddance.
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