With both of their ties undone and tuxedo jackets discarded, Jackson Diodati ’20, Constantine, wrestles Sam Wright ’19, Nikos, to the ground. As roaring flames project onto a screen behind them, the thumping bass in the background music captures the high tension between the characters. Above the loud music, the character Constantine rants about the injustices of how men are expected to live in society and that men should have the right to abuse their wives to show them the true pain of life.
This scene was one of many fight scenes choreographed by fight director, Ted Hewlett, in the Theater-920 production, ‘Big Love.’ Directed by Allen Grimm and Billy Murray, Instructors in Theater and Dance, the performance is based off the classical Greek play, “The Suppliants” by Aeschylus, and tells the story of 50 brides forcefully engaged to 50 grooms and their struggle to escape.
“The whole purpose of the play is to make you look at what we do to each [character]… I want [the audience] to do a self-reflection, what am I doing to that person? Am I burdening that person for my own desires, or am I supporting that person? That’s the purpose of it,” said Murray.
The play explores themes of gender, morality, love, and power. In one scene, three brides, played by Lesley Tilghman ’19, Araba Aidoo ’20, and Junah Jang ’20 debate their opposing views on men. Tilghman, playing Thyona, cries that no men are good and are simply ‘biological accidents,’ while Jang protests about how she has known loving and kind men.
“When you look at it from a bigger picture, it’s a story about three sisters being there for each other and standing up for their own rights in this patriarchal world and because their families have basically sold them out and it plays into how women are being sold as commerce in this world. These three women are banding together to fight against the system,” said Aidoo.
The cast of Big Love will perform again this summer in Scotland at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the largest performing arts festival in the world.
“It’s my first time going to Europe… It’ll be cool because we’ve done this show for the last term, but to continue memorizing it and keeping it fresh by the time we get to the summer will be a challenge, but I’m really excited,” said Jang.
In one scene, Zar Cordova-Potter ’20, playing the matriarchal character Bella, tosses red tomatoes between her hands as she walks around stage. She compares each tomato to one of her 13 sons and speaks of what each son has done with his life. Bella suddenly begins to hurl the tomatoes across the stage at the other characters, sending them running in fear, as she describes her failures as a mother and her disappointment in many of her sons.
“When I do talk, my character tends to monologue a lot… Mr. Murray has beautiful concepts of what these characters should be, so I’m trying to be married to this concept of a character and talk for five minutes by myself,” said Cordova-Potter.
According to Murray, the cast and crew of the play worked together to develop each part of the production cohesively.
“It’s developing the idea, the objective, finding how to achieve that, same way for the actors. What do you want in the scene, how are you going to get it, and what obstacles are in the way. So it’s not just the actors, it’s the sounds, the lights, the props — it’s everything,” said Murray.
In a brief interlude of soft music after a fight between the brides and grooms, Aidoo and Wright, whose characters have fallen in love despite their forced arrangement, emerge from a curtained set piece on stage. Despite swearing on oath to take part to stand with her sisters and resist, Aidoo’s character reveals that she has turned against her sisters and married her cousin as was arranged by their father, against the girls’ will. She knows that she has betrayed her sisters, but tries to justify her decisions because of the love and connection that had formed between her and her new spouse.
“My favorite scene would probably be the love scene between Lydia and Nikos because I feel it’s the climax of the show because all of the sisters really hate their husbands but [my character] and Nikos have a very strong connection where we find we actually have a passion for each other despite the fact that we’re cousins,” said Aidoo.
“Big Love” performances will take place in Tang Theatre on Thursday, March 29, Friday, March 30, and Saturday, March 31 at 7:30pm. Tickets are on sale for five dollars.