A New Take on an Ancient Greek Play

Oct 9, 2013

Actors in "Big Love" (clockwise from top), Olivia Saccomanno, Briana Maia, and Marisa Desa.
Credit Gerry Goodstein

In performance now through October 13 at the Connecticut Repertory Theatre at the University of Connecticut is "Big Love," a play by Charles Mee. "Big Love" is an adaptation of an ancient Greek play. Joining WNPR News to talk about the production is reporter Ed Wierzbicki, who reviewed the show here and also talked about playwright Mee, the challenge of this production, and the outline of the story. 

WNPR News: Who is Charles Mee?

Ed Wierzbicki: Charles Mee is a playwright who created the remaking project. He started to write adaptations of Greek plays he connected with, but he wanted to convey them in a contemporary voice. He made them available so theater companies could look at work that said something about today’s society, but they were re-imaginings of these great plays.

What's the outline of "Big Love"?

[The play] is based on what many consider the very first play in the western world. It's called "The Suppliant Women" -- it has many variations on that name, but basically the story is about 50 would-be brides who refuse to marry their 50 designated cousins in this marriage pact, and they escape. They get on a boat; they leave Greece, and they just take off. They end up on this Italian island. They ask for help, and there's a family that lives there. They consider the options. Before those options can be considered, the cousins appear, and they don’t just appear: they come in by helicopter. They zip-line in, and they surround the piazza. They pretty much say, you know, we’re the men; you’re going to marry us. And that really launches the battles between the sexes in this production.

How did you like the production?

I was captivated pretty much from start to finish. It's a really difficult play to produce, and the simple reason is Charles Mee puts all these interesting things into his script. First of all, there are long speeches just like the old Greek plays, even though they’re in contemporary language. He asks for certain pieces of music to appear; he asks for certain dance to appear. He adds elements that he calls a "modern day vaudeville" in order to tell the story. You need a company that can deal with movement, dance, and physicality. The Connecticut Repertory Theatre does an exceptional job.

Who are the members of the company?

The Connecticut Repertory Theatre is a professional company connected to the theater arts program at UConn. It's a combination of professional actors and actors in training. In this production, you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. 

Read Ed Wierzbicki's review of "Big Love."