“Big Love” Goes Big In Production

By Kelly O’Brien '15
November 13, 2013

There is nothing small about the play “Big Love.”  As the Department of Theatre of Arts tackles the mountainous theme of love in its play from November 14-17 and 21-24, actors will tackle each other in stage combat and rappel onto the stage like mountaineers. 

These unique theatrical techniques separate this contemporary comedic version of one of the oldest Greek dramas from other productions.

“This is by far one of the more physical shows I've directed,” said Scott Kanoff, interim chair of Theatre Arts. “Playwright Charles Mee asks for a potent physical approach to the production where deep-seated passions erupt with particular force and frequency, much more so, and in a much more heightened, stylized way than in realistic plays.”

The storyline calls for big production, as 50 Greek brides, all sisters, flee to Italy to escape forced marriage to 50 grooms, all brothers.  When the men follow the women to demand their return, they rappel from a helicopter to invade the women’s villa. 

The actors learned rappelling from Markin Center climbing wall manager Cody Haas.

“This is the first time I’ve ever had actors rappel,” said stage manager Sahara Alphonso ’14. “It gives the feeling that the women are helpless to these masculine, G.I.-type of men who will do what they want when they want.”

Both the men and the women release their frustrations through combat.  The play features stick fighting, boxing, body throws and hand-to-hand combat, all of which culminates in a fight scene that depicts a drowning, eye gouging, suffocation and neck snapping. 

“It flows like an action flick,” Alphonso said.

The stage combat and fight choreography is by Hunter C. Smith, a stunt man, theatrical combatant and fight director from Los Angeles, who is a former student of Kanoff at the University of Texas.

“There's a whole vocabulary of movement and dance in this production,” Smith said.  “It’s a kind of underlying parallel physical life that runs concurrently alongside the narrative.”

Kanoff believes his students’ hard work in the production of the play will pay off.

“It's exceptionally challenging for the actors and me but very theatrical and fun for an audience,” he said.  “I would encourage people to see ‘Big Love’ for its spectacle, wide variety of music, eclectic mix of theatrical styles, warped humor, larger-than-life passions and big ideas.”

For ticket information, contact the Box Office in the Hartmann Center at (309) 677-2650.