By: Sean Byrne
Picture this: women flinging themselves up and down on the ground in fits of rage while in their nightgowns. Then picture men doing the same thing but shirtless with lots of fake weapons. To top it off, add over-exaggerated stock characters, rose petals, karaoke solos, and mood swings and you have yourself a Big Lovin’ sundae . . . at this rendetition at least.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s production of Charles Mee’s Big Love was (outrageous, comical, boisterous, offensive, maniacal – you pick) to say the least. I wasn’t at all ready to take in a physical circus with sociological-gender undertones, but sometimes “we just make do.”
As you might’ve guessed already, physical movement was monumental to the production, but in my opinion this was the only part that really distracted the audience from what the show truly hoped to get across. (Although, if you have any idea what the message was – bravo, because through it’s thick layers of clichés, irony, obnoxious costumes and reality show drama, it was lost on me.) The demanding physicality was executed brilliantly; the actors clearly well directed and trained in movement. But at points, the movement was too brilliant and did not further what the characters were saying. Nor did it mesh with the set, only taking up a small portion of the space and never filling the stage with the rambunctious energy.
One of the few scenes where I thought the movement actually inspired the text happened between Lydia and Nikos. The romantic Nikos, played by Kyle Hulcher, quaintly courted the shy yet alluring Lydia, played by Alora King, and led her in to a slow, entrancing dance. Visually pleasing and graceful in movement, the lights down low, it was one of few scenes I felt the characters connect with each other and exist in the moment.
On the technical side, I want to applaud the lighting for the vivacious scrim and scenery for creating a masterfully rendered garden terrace with a beautiful island paint job. The sound design went both ways – effective and pleasant at some points (especially during the aforementioned courtship scene) and distracting and misplaced at others (especially during the random karaoke scenes).
Don’t get me wrong though. The production is worthwhile . . . just as a slapstick farce and nothing more: the actors excel at comedic timing, the sound design is pleasantly cheesy, the abs well sculpted, and the irony abounds. I applaud the company for taking this work in a very daring and new way, even though it may not have translated well on stage. I may think it wasn’t the most succesful show, but Charles Mee puts his work in the public domain so that we may do with it as we wish. So I have to say, they took their own advice very well: “just be whomever you are, whoever that is.”
“Love touches us,” one character explains, to which I might add: in all the right, wrong, and clearly inappropriate places.