Fifty arranged marriages go belly-up in Big Love

 When it comes topissed-off married chicks, there is more fury in the blushing, hatchet-wielding ladies of Big Love than in a whole season of Bridezillas.

Borrowing the basic structure of The Suppliants by the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus, Charles Mee's Big Love looks at love and animosity in many forms. And thanks to convergence-continuum's lusty production, the play delivers a memorable smackdown, ending in carnage and, oddly, hope. 

It starts with a woman in a bridal gown swimming desperately to shore (a nice use of con-con's ever-present video screen), one of 50 sisters who have been married off against their will to 50 male cousins. The ranks of this sisterhood are represented onstage by sensible Lydia (Liz Conway), hot-headed, man-hating Thyona (Lauren B. Smith) and passive, princess-y Olympia (Laurel Johnson).  

They wind up at the seaside Italian estate of Piero (an elegant but accent-challenged Bobby Williams), a wealthy man who deigns to take in the women for a night. But when the jilted fiancés — stubborn Constantine (Geoffrey Hoffman), tender-hearted Nikos (Scott Gorbach) and frat-boy follower Oed (Stuart Hoffman) — arrive via helicopters, things get a bit testy. After an attempt at compromise breaks down, the women decide they will go through with the group marriage, then kill their husbands on the wedding night. Hey, it's all downhill after the reception anyhow. 

Under the spirited and muscular direction of Clyde Simon, Big Love blends moments of quiet reflection with burlesque and juicy, behind-the-scrim bloodletting. Each of the brothers and sisters etches a distinctive character, and two of them emerge from the horror with their bodies and affections for each other intact. As Bella, Lucy Bredeson-Smith navigates her intricate monologues with sublime control. 

There are a couple of missteps. A visiting older couple should be more erotically entangled with each other. And Piero's gay son Giuliano, played by adorable Tony Thai, suffers from a largely atonal rending of "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered."  But Big Love is larger than life, in so many ways, that it never fails to entertain and enthrall. 

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About The Author

Christine Howey

Christine Howey has been reviewing theater since 1997, first at Cleveland Free Times and then for other publications including City Pages in Minneapolis, MN and The Plain Dealer. Her blog, Rave and Pan, also features her play reviews. Christine is a former stage actor and director, primarily at Dobama Theatre...
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