The University Players are wrapping up their season with the final few performances of Big Love at Essex Hall this weekend. This explosive version of the Charles L. Mee play is one of the best performances of the year and full of fun, amazing movements and a passionate storyline based on an ancient Greek tragedy.
Aeschylus’ The Danaids might be about as asinine a story as any. Big Love takes the plot The Danaids into modern times, including such details as having the grooms ambush the brides by helicopter in a gorgeously choreographed segment. While the brides and grooms wait for their impending wedding day, the characters raise issues of gender, politics, love, and domestic violence. It’s bloody freakin’ fun – literally – there’s a mess of goo, blood and innards that appear on stage at one point.
When the women arrive in Italy, they shed their wedding dresses and create the largest mess of clothes, luggage and garbage I’ve ever seen on the Essex Theatre stage. It’s a huge muddle of fun and chaos, as the women dance and synchronize their movements in glorious actions as the story unwinds. Although the University version avoided the use of nudity as the original script called for, the adoption made up for the change with a plethora of gracious movements, slick choreography and a beautiful set based around the wedding purity of white, with plenty of frilly and lacy touches everywhere.
The play is radically challenging and demands a level of commitment and risk-taking that it’s not always pleasant to watch, but the players captured the essence of the show with an amazing sense of flair, thanks to the over-the-top movements and fun presentation. At times it looked like the actors reached the point of exhaustion as they sprawled across the stage with martial arts styled movements.
The ladies of the show are the real stars in this one, but the men scored the biggest movements with their helicopter choreography, complete with spinning propeller helmets.
Ken Caughey, Aine Donnelly, Lauren Fields, Aaron Hrastovec, Keaton Kwok, J.D Leslie, Dani Michie, Darius Rathe and Sean Williams gave the audience their all in this passionate and challenging work, ending their 2017-18 season with a winner.
All performances on Friday and Saturday night start at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday matinee performances are at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $8 to $22, and can be ordered online at www.UniversityPlayers.com or by calling 519-253-3000 ext. 2808.