The moment I laid my eyes on the bulky gymnastic mat in the center of the exquisitely accented set, my pre-show mood instantly soured. Instead of witnessing the professional piece of theatre I was expecting, I was unexpectedly thrown into a world that seemed to be the demented lovechild of High School Musical and Aeschylus’ The Suppliants. If the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s production of Big Love aimed solely to please the masses, then I must say they were a raving success.
The movement portion of the show was fascinating and evoked quite a few laughs and fervent cheers from the audience. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the parallelism between the sisters and brothers choreographed “falling” and “tumbling”, the gymnastic tricks became increasingly longer and substantially more insufferable as the show progressed, the prime example being the agonizingly dragged out death of Constantine. After several minutes of watching the actor convulse on the floor with an infinite amount of rose petals surrounding him, I was ready to jump on stage and finish him off myself.
The actors, though remarkably conditioned and nimble, relied heavily on the choreographed movement to guide their acting instead of forming authentic relationships with one another. Instead of being able dive into the emotional extremities these characters were written to have, the actors were unable to convincingly communicate the text until they were riled up from intense physical exertion. A majority of the cast focused on portraying a hyper-sensualized version of their characters instead of using the realities of their identity to disclose the humor of the text. Though lively performers such as Renita Lewis (Thyona) and Calvin Nielsen (Constantine) controlled the stage with ferocity and resilience, this show left me starving for genuinely serious moments untainted by a satirical thirst for absurdity.
The costumes were a horribly executed joke. The materials of the wedding gowns were both unflattering and aesthetically unappealing on the gorgeous frames of Alora King (Lydia), Julia Spring (Olympia), and Renita Lewis (Thyona). The music made this production into a farce that left no element untouched by exaggeration. The random and poorly placed pop songs and dance numbers were embarrassing to witness, which is something I’ve only experienced while watching Disney Channel original musicals.
Regardless, Big Love is an engaging show that will, at the very least, appeal to the primal side of your humor and quench your thirst for shirtless men with chiseled chests.