"Big Love" Tackles the Big (Progressive) Picture

Over a weekend filled with anticipation for turkey and a trip back home, the Boston College Theatre Department assuaged some of the excitement with the production of Big Love. Packed with twists, turns, tomatoes, tradition and much more, the four showings of the action-packed play brought a bit of everything to the Robsham Theater.

First produced in 2000, Charles Mee’s Big Love is a modern portrayal of Aeschylus’s Greek tragedy, The Suppliants. In his reproduction, Mee aimed to transport an ancient moment in time to present day and infuse the story with modern societal issues. Director Scott T. Cummings, a Boston College professor of Dramatic Literature and Playwriting, guided his cast and crew in performing Mee’s play. Cummings and his students brought to life a story once performed in festivals around Athens and transformed it to address 21st century gender stereotypes, the battle between traditionalists and modernists and the timeless mystery of love.

Big Love is the story of 50 sisters (yes, 50) all clad in white, who take refuge in the Italian countryside after fleeing from their home in Greece to escape arranged marriages to their American cousins. The Greek sisters are dismayed when their grooms follow them to their Italian oasis, seeking to claim their brides via helicopter and parachute (because Americans like to do things BIG, even journeying to reclaim runaway brides).

Photo courtesy of Boston College Theatre Department / Facebook

Photo courtesy of Boston College Theatre Department / Facebook

The plot progresses with several musical numbers, a little bumping and grinding and one very abrupt scene that proves girls really can pack a punch. To a generation whose knowledge base is limited to My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Full House’s Uncle Jesse, the story probably did little to further education on Greek culture. However, the 100 person wedding party presented ideas that highlighted topical issues in our society.

Atop the Robsham Theater main stage, the American grooms clung to custom while their Grecian brides ran from tradition almost as fast as BC students cower at the mention of finals. This plot line reflects a disparity between genders that is more striking than physical differences—the juxtaposed sentiments and actions of the brides and grooms of Big Love revealed the illusory expectations and lack of understanding each gender had for the other.

Another relevant issue was tapped in the interaction between the Big Love brides and the owner of the Italian villa, Piero. Played by Nicholas Gennaro, MCAS ’16, Piero refuses to take the brides in as refugees, claiming that "it is not [his] business to take in every refugee in [his] garden" and that he "cannot open [his] doors to the whole world.” When he asks whether he should really put his life on the line save a stranger, the brides remind the Italian man that accepting those less fortunate is the only right thing to do.

This string of interactions perfectly exhibits the current debate surrounding the acceptance of Syrian refugees into the western world. Despite the difference in culture and cause, the 50 sisters seeking safety are no different from the Syrian men, women and children fleeing their homes out of fear. A collision of morality and politics rings true in both cases.

The constant tug-of-war between tradition and progressivism explored in Big Love is not new, especially to BC students who witness the intersection of Catholic principles and a young demographic every day on campus. By acknowledging the pervasive nature of progress, the play encourages a worldwide acceptance of change. A play unlike many of its contemporaries, Big Love surprised the audience with love, loss and an ode to progress in a traditional setting.

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Casey O'Neill