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Theatre Dept. Press Release   Date: 12/2/08

Big Cast, Big Story—Big Love

A big scene from Big Love.

In Charles L. Mee’s popular play Big Love, which opens Wednesday, Dec. 3, in Hallie Flanagan Studio Theatre, Mendenhall Center, 50 Greek sisters flee from arranged marriages to their 50 American cousins and wash ashore at a lavish Italian villa declaring they are refugees. But the jilted grooms pursue them.

Smith’s production of Big Love is directed by Ellen Morbyrne ’09J. Performances are December 3 through 6 at 8 p.m. and December 6 and 7 at 2 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 4, is “Dollar Night” for students with ID.

Though inspired by the classic Greek tragedy The Suppliant Women by Aeschylus, The New York Times said of Mee’s production, “his leap of boundless imagination has refashioned tragedy into a theatrical statement that is comedic, gymnastic, musical, sensual, shocking and redemptive.”

Everything about Big Love is big and it is an intensely physical play. The large cast of 18 flails, fights, dances, and sings through the piece, alternating between action on an epic scale and moments of striking intimacy.

Mee’s script allows for enormous freedom in interpretation, adaptation, and design. In directing, Morbyrne decided to add a chorus of women refugees to highlight the socio-political issues of the play—especially the search for connection between people and the dire consequences that occur when people are unable or unwilling to connect with each other. These ethereal beings, representing a larger consciousness, follow closely the efforts, successes, and failures of the characters they created, and react emotionally to them, but refuse to interfere in the story being played out by these autonomous characters. The chorus members tell stories and they often sing, providing a living score to the action onstage.

Morbyrne has served as director of the theatre program at North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens in Hadley, Mass., since 2003 and while there she directed The Last Unicorn (her adaptation of the book by Peter S. Beagle ), Through the Looking-Glass (her adaptation of book by Lewis Carroll, which she co-directed with Trine Boode-Petersen), and Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechwan. Morbyrne is an alumna of the Northampton-based Serious Play! Theatre Ensemble where she has served as director, actor, teacher, editor, and dramaturge. As a Serious Play! actor she has toured to Boston, New York City, London, and Edinburgh and played such roles as Lily in Caryl Churchill’s The Skriker and Cressida in Shakespeare’s Troilus & Cressida. She also co-directed the Serious Play!’s recent production of Sonya Sobieski’s Commedia dell Smartass with her husband Dan Morbyrne.

Tickets ($8 public, $5 students/seniors) for Big Love can be purchased by calling the box office, 413-585-ARTS. For information on this and other performances at Smith, visit the Performing Arts Web Site.

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