We’re in the middle of our rehearsal period and days are long. But, things are really starting to click. We had our first full run-through last night, followed by a late-night production meeting. At present, our schedule is grueling; it’s like training for a championship game. But I’ve never been more excited about what a play has to say. And this play does have a lot to say. I love how this play asks the audience to look at some huge, provocative questions from both sides of the argument. I find myself saying, “Wow. That is so right on,” and then a minute later, flipping perspective and agreeing with the complete opposite position.
In Big Love, Charles Mee gives us characters in crisis, and as an observer of the action, we easily identify with the issues. They are at once personal, and relevant. And the way Mee uses both found and original text is adventurous. Big Love is based on a Greek play where 50 sisters are promised to their 50 cousins in marriage by their fathers. The brides run away to escape a forced marriage. Their power, and sense of self, has been stripped away from them. It’s absurd, often funny and sometimes heartbreaking, as the women passionately try to convince others that they deserve to choose real love for themselves.
While the story is mythical, epic, and very Greek in plot, Mee’s text is so layered that you immediately connect what’s happening to these characters to the very real things happening in our world today. A quick scan of the headlines reminds us that people are still taking away personal choices and rights, every day. We are still inflicting personal beliefs on others, and are still doing very barbaric things in our civilized world.
But Big Love is not one-sided – it’s not just a play about choice, or equality or ensuring a person’s right to love. While those themes are certainly present, Mee gives each gender their say. And, their arguments are sound. When taken objectively, it’s often difficult to determine who is wrong and who is right. There is a gorgeous monologue that lays out the male point of view; a vicious cycle for men. Men are asked the impossible – to be civilized, kind, tender, and respectful, and also asked to stand up for their women (which many women like). Further, in times of war they are expected to protect, kill, and be vicious for a cause, and then, return to civilized society and be, well, totally civil. With so many societal contradictions, how can any of us avoid confusion? Mee addresses these questions of love and dominance, and forces us to scrutinize these seemingly impossible mainstream societal issues.
Nailing the nuts and bolts of this play is a huge challenge for me, for the actors, and for the creative team. It’s making huge decisions while keeping room for new discoveries. There is so much rich content to dissect and bring to life in Mee’s piece. Getting to the heart of the Big Love is delicate – a real journey – and there is fierce dedication on all parts.
Watching the first run-through last night took me back to why I love live theatre so much. Having this story in front of me, and watching this hugely talented cast go to such extremes, so powerfully, makes me so excited for the rehearsals ahead, and to finally get to share this with an audience. There is still much work to do, but we are well on our way to finding Big Love.
Read Part One of ‘Finding Big Love.’