Chicago Fusion Theatre presents
At Royal George, 1641 N. Halsted
Written by Charles L. Mee
Directed by Nilsa Reyna
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm
Thru June 25th
Running Time: Ninety minutes with no intermission.
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
Fifty brides for fifty brothers IS a lot of potential loving. But these Greek sisters engaged to their cousins causes revolting. The runaway brides take shelter in an Italian villa to avoid the arranged marriages. Chicago Fusion Theatre presents BIG LOVE. The basis for whimsical, matrimonial mayhem IS there. The idea has all the comedic frosting for a my-big-FATTER-Greek-wedding cake. Instead Playwright Charles L. Mee tries for a meatier fare and the result is a tougher morsel of confusion. Feminists argue equality. Refugees assert political asylum. Romantics profess love. Matriarchs declare order. It's a lot to swallow especially when you're not sure what you're eating. BIG LOVE is a big mess!
Arriving five minutes before curtain, we get stuck standing behind people in the hallway listening to a preface being performed. We find out later it is GRAN AMOR. Apparently, the fifteen minute radio show precedes Thursday performances. It uses some of the characters and the theme. It's an interesting idea but already makes me feel more like a wedding crasher than a guest. The disconnection continues as director Nilsa Reyna stages a clunky paced show. Some of the acting is good but overall the performances seem choppy. It could be miscast or odd directorial choices. For example, Carla Alegre (Lydia) starts the show explaining she is from Greece. Her accent is Spanish. Her Greek sisters arrive speaking American-based English. A quick glimpse at the program shows Alegre is from Peru. That explains her accent but what about Lisa Siciliano (Bella/Eleanor)? Siciliano speaks with an English accent for one character and Italian for the other. The dialect choice is deliberate and is perplexing. If they are in Italy, why aren't her sons and grandson speaking with Italian accents? Everyone should speak in their character's native accent or no one should. Even though the intentional (Siciliano) or natural (Alegre) tone isn't unpleasant, the deaf casting interferes with relationship identification and backstory. It just bewilders like the time in-between a wedding ceremony and the reception. Unnecessary and awkward!
Somewhere in between breaking into a house to take a bath and a spoiler-alerting bloodstained shirt, there are some memorable moments. A raging Jamie Bragg (Thyona) commits to intensity. Her performance contrasts nicely with a more childlike Kate LoConti (Olympia). Alegre and Pat King (Nikos) charm in a subtle, sensual flirtation. John Taflan (Constantine) is commanding in a monologue about gender roles. My absolute favorite moment was a brief croon by David Mitchell (Giuliano). Although he beautifully bewitches, his character and the song are very garter-esque, hidden and not really serving a purpose.
BIG LOVE isn't a big hate! It's more like witnessing a marriage of nice people that you know won't last.
Celebrating almost two years of wedded bliss, Jasleen describes it with 'relationship wary pastiche.'