Love and Murder Have Never Been So ‘Big’

In this year’s spring show, things get murderous. Charles Mee’s “Big Love,” based on Aeschylus’s “The Suppliants,” is the story of 50 brides who refuse to marry their cousins. Seattle University’s take on the near-abstract performance is directed

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by associate professor Rosa Joshi in conjunction with students of the theatre department. The actors and actresses of this poetic interpretation throw themselves through a physically demanding rendition of Mee’s story, to bring to the audience a comedy about gender roles, empathy, and human relationships that will leave the viewer talking for days. This play is “a nontraditional way of making theater…it’s contemporary performance. It’s the difference between seeing a narrative play and if you go see abstract expressionism. We’re more in the world of abstract expressionism,” Joshi said. Joshi said that “Big Love” “does not exist in a realistic world…it’s more dreamlike, more surreal.” The show follows three sisters, Thyona, Olympia and Lydia, who represent the stereotypes of an angry man-hater, a lovelorn woman, and the reasoning medium between the two. When their father signs a contract entering these women into marriages without their consent, they flee Italy for Greece to take asylum. No sooner do they land in the country than the sisters are followed and confronted by their suitors, Constantine, Oed and Nikos, who force the women into accepting their marriage proposals. Thyona hatches the idea among her sisters to murder their husbands on their wedding night. “The point of the show is to explore modern feelings of love and relationships,” said junior Sam Asher, who plays Giuliano. “It explores what it means to be female or male and the difficulties both face in a society filled with gender biases.” “It’s a play about what it means to be human and what our needs are,” said senior assistant stage manager Kat Jimenez. “You have a lot of diverse and complicated characters that drive the story about what it means to be a person, empathy and what our basic needs are.” The show, with a running time of 150 minutes, is nonlinear. Originally, the script was written as long poetry in an open-ended fashion, which is why Joshi did not change much of the script or storyline for this rendition. The cast and crew’s creativity leads the play to include a variety of elements and interpretations of the script, like live singing, slam poetry and highly stylized acting. As the show is student-run, Joshi makes sure to emphasize the education and experience the students can gain from working on “Big Love.” “In choosing the show, we think about the cast and in what ways they can be involved and in what way it will affect their education. We always think about how to create opportunities for them,” Joshi said. Joshi added that she chose “Big Love” for this year’s spring show because it is the perfect show for college students, as it “deals with finding love [and] being true to yourself” and could create a dialogue among about gender roles and stereotypes. “It’s definitely the most challenging show I’ve ever done in my life. Particularly being a freshman, I would have been super intimidated by the whole thing, but it’s causing me to rise as an actor and it’s super rewarding,” said Ariana Chriest, who plays Lydia. “Rosa has really high expectations and she trains and coaches you to a much, much higher level.” Of the actors interviewed, all agreed that the show has been incredibly challenging and demanding. “I’ve never been in better shape in my life,” Chriest added. “Through my reading of the play, I find this endearing need of my character [Constantine] to understand who he is. He’s trying throughout the entire play to understand who he is—as a character, as a husband, and as a man in this society that he’s living in. He’s confused as to what society expects him to be because he’s done everything that a man is expected to do… and he’s still trying to figure himself out,” junior Ishan Tiwathia said. “I approach every character by how they come at me, and this one came at me…like a puppy dog—but not always steadfast, loyal and happy all the time, like he can get very violent and angry without knowing it…He’s a very damaged person,” said freshman Dylan Zucati, who plays Oed. When asked how this performance has influenced them as actors, it was unanimous that the cast felt they had improved. These roles require intense method acting—serious physical work and engagement with the character each actor is playing. The entire cast—including Chriest, Zucati, Tiwathia, Meme Garcia, Lucy Walker, Jacob Swanson and Emma Bjornson—all have had to become their characters and know them personally and emotionally to prepare for the roles. The roles demanded a meditation, argument and reflection both with the actors and their characters, and among the actors themselves. The show begins with the actors coming onstage as themselves, and soon transforms into an intense moving emotional art piece that’s all the rage and all the laughs. “Big Love” premieres May 7 at the Lee Center for the Arts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $6 for students, $8 for faculty and staff, and $10 for general admission.