“They’re trying to speak to me I just know it”
I’m sure there was some point to The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s production of Big Love, however I was unable to find it within the multitude of what some may call style. What seems to be a simple set prepared for the use of levels to create stage pictures, is simply a frame to a gym mat. What seems to be a play, is in fact an excuse for actors who spend too much time in the gym to take off their clothes and roll around on the floor.
The performance began with three women in wedding dresses as they escape their cousins attempt to marry them. They continue to tell their story through singing to a track of “You Don’t Own Me” , but the track already had vocal, creating an odd karaoke type situation. The hokey use of music continued as the grooms appeared to a score from an action movie with helicopter sounds added. Climbing up from behind the set in unison, the three man were dressed in tuxes, one of which was glittering gold, apparently to match the campy style that had been established. The tuxes however, did not last long as two of the men eventually had no shirts on, leaving the smallest in a whiter undershirt. The image, much like the entire production, was nice to look at, but unmotivated and not at all in support of the story. After repeatedly throwing themselves on the ground in a rhythmic motion (which was albeit, impressive), an odd display of homoerotic fighting ensued. In the fight, the smallest of the three(Ellis Wilson Oswalt) was obviously no match for the other two, who had taken to an “everything but the kitchen sink” style combat. At times there was text being spoken throughout the gymnastics, but the voice was lost entirely. A monologue following the fight about the expectations of men was also lost, as the direction choices( such as the shirt and underdog qualities of the smallest man) clearly dictated that only shirtless muscular men fighting with strangely shaped pillows deserve the title of a “real man”.
Other oddities plagued this show, including a strange man(Dennis McLernon) and his wife(Marlene Johnson) as guests on the island on which the action takes place. The couple appears to be in an open relationship and finds sexual energy in everything around them, including olive oil. A light of clarity could only be found in Giuliano(Russell E. Alexander, II), a feminine gay man, who effectively portrayed a drag queen type persona, without creating a caricature. Another standout was an Italian mother(Marlene Johnson) who uses tomatoes to demonstrate her feeling for her many sons. It is entirely possible, even likely that the entire cast is extremely talented. Unfortunately a disservice has been done to them with an unstable script, and direction and concept lost in the desire to be artsy and progressive. The many aphorisms scattered throughout the script were lost in a big show, that I most certainly did not love.