The Collective Face Theatre Ensemble’s production of Charles L. Mee’s “Big Love” reminded me of a wild amusement park ride. At first, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be on the ride, but I sure didn’t want to get off of it.
Mee’s play is inspired by Aeschylus’ “The Suppliants,” which chronicles the flight of the Danaids from forced marriages to their cousins, but the contemporary version of the story veers giddily, daringly and unpredictably in many different directions.
At times, “Big Love” feels like a romantic comedy, but then it turns to slapstick, or to dark farce, or to wry social commentary. Or even to the occasional pop song.
Director David I.L. Poole and his talented cast get the action rolling at a frenetic pace, but the tempo proves as unpredictable as everything else. Julie Kessler’s funny interpretation the Italian grandmother Bella slows the play down, and Andrew Norris injects some especially touching moments into the monologues of young Giuliano.
When I looked at the program after a well-attended Sunday matinee, I was surprised that the play had just 11 cast members. The stage seems much busier than that, especially as the action variously tackles — or just dances around — issues of love, marriage, sex, gender, revenge and violence.
The story, such as it is, opens with the Greek sisters Thyona (Cecilia Tran Arango), Lydia (Casey Bessette) and Olympia (Abigail Eller) seeking refuge from their impending arranged marriages at the home of Piero (Nathan Houseman) on the coast of Italy.
But the sisters are being pursued by their persistent would-be husbands, Nikkos (Adam Casey Dunn), Oed (Timothy Menefee) and Constantine (Travis Harold Coles). Another couple played by Montrice Anderson and Amber DeFeo provides additional comic relief and commentary on the mayhem around them.
It’s great to see so many bold actors be given so much freedom.
“Big Love” is the first production of Collective Face’s 2018-19 season, which continues with three more plays in the theme of “Ruptured Romances.”
“Big Love” continues its run at 8 p.m. Sept. 21-22 and 3 p.m. Sept. 23 in the theater at the Kennedy Fine Arts Building at Savannah State University. Advance tickets ($25 general admission with discounts for students, seniors and active duty military) can be purchased via collectiveface.org.
Bill Dawers writes City Talk in Savannah Morning News and blogs at Savannah Unplugged (www.billdawers.com) and hissing lawns (www.hissinglawns.com). Email firstname.lastname@example.org.