It’s one of the oldest stories ever told – 50 brides for 50 grooms – and virtually all of the grooms die.
But it’s a comedy.
In Big Love, the latest production to be featured in Rowan’s historic Alice Tohill Theatre, the notions of love, and its many incarnations, are not just explored and examined, they’re drowned, stomped, strangled, axed, even chain-sawed to pieces.
“This is not your normal play,” quipped Melanie Stewart, chair of Rowan’s Department of Theatre and Dance, and the show’s director.
Written by acclaimed playwright Charles Mee, Big Love is based on The Supplicants, an ancient Greek drama first performed around 470 B.C.
It’s the story of 50 sisters who, forced into contracts to marry 50 cousins, flee the country. Then, unable to void their contracts, they kill their grooms instead. The Mee version is replete with flying dinnerware, tomatoes and cake, a helicopter, and, of course, a bathtub full of water.
Stewart said Mee saw in the Greek classic applications for a modern American audience as well as a chance to have some fun.
“There are all sorts of issues that are relevant today,” Stewart said. “Issues about love, immigration, justice, revenge, and our capacity for violence.”
In the Rowan version, to be staged this weekend and next, three brides and three grooms stand in, so to speak, for the original 50/50.
Stewart, a professor of dance, directed a very physical 90-minute play intended to get audiences laughing but also to make them think.
“I tried to have the whole thing move as if it were a dance,” she said. “There are soft, quiet moments juxtaposed with extremely violent moments in an emotionally wild ride.”
The show, in production for the past six weeks, involves 22 Rowan students including 13 actors, seven crewmembers and two make-up artists.
Theatre/performance major Dexter Anderson (“Nikos”) said the play shreds stereotypical behaviors of both men and women.
“It’s interesting that although it’s based on the oldest known play in the Western world it’s still relevant today,” said Anderson, 21, of Salem, Mass.
Big Love is the first of four big shows Rowan’s Department of Theatre and Dance will produce this year. The shows, planned up to a year in advance, also include Will You Marry Me, Pina Bausch?, an experimental dance piece in December; the drama Flying West for African American History Month in February; and the musical Into the Woods in March and April.
Show times for Big Love are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. as well as Nov. 4 & 5 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 6 at 3 p.m.
Tickets are $10 for general admission, $5 for alumni, seniors and non-Rowan students, and FREE to Rowan students with ID. For tickets, please visit the Rowan Box Office.