STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For 21st Century Media
Villanova Theatre’s planning a wedding, but not the usual kind. In this one, there are 50 brides for 50 grooms. When the women don’t want to marry those men, it becomes a battle of the sexes in “Big Love.”
The play, written by Charles L. Mee, borrows the plot in large part from Aeschylus’ 470 BC tragic drama “The Suppliant Women.” Villanova’s cast boasts 20 artists-scholars — both current students and alumni of the university’s Masters in Theatre program.
“It’s big and it’s bold and really beautiful,” said Meghan Winch, of Narberth. She plays Olympia, one of three sisters that are the focus of the play. Olympia’s the youngest and is fun, open, and optimistic, Winch said.
“She’s a romantic and wants all the fun stuff that goes on with marriage and weddings,” she said.
At first glance, Olympia seems materialistic, spoiled, and silly, Winch said, but she realized Olympia just wants to be happy.
“It comes out of a desire to find things beautiful, not just about stuff for stuff’s sake,” Winch said. “Olympia believes she can choose the things that make her happy. She can choose to have a happy and beautiful life.”
Winch likes Olympia’s positivity: “I find that attractive to be able to say there’s darkness and bad stuff and I’m going to choose to look at the light.”
The other two sisters in the play are her best friends in real life, she said. Hallie Martenson plays Thyona and Sophia Barrett plays Lydia.
Barrett, of Bryn Mawr, said her character is the sensible one who lives between the extreme worlds of Olympia and Thyona, who’s Olympia’s opposite.
She liked and understood her character quickly, but found the work to be challenging.
“The language is almost Shakespearian, very poetic,” she said.
But she likes the challenge as well as the moments of levity amidst the tragedy.
“In chaos and turmoil, there is a glimmer of love,” she said.
As soon as audiences walk into Vasey Hall, they will find themselves in the midst of the show. Barrett, who’s working on audience engagement as part of her Master’s work, created an installation in the lobby that features women from the show (from the ensemble of brides) acting as mannequins.
“I hope to get people as immersed in the material as possible the second they walk in the door,” she said.
The installation’s purpose is to shine a light on the idea of objectification of women and the gender roles that permeate the show.
“Women are at certain points seen by some of the characters as people who should be kept quiet and told what to do and what their future is,” she said.
The installation will mirror the style of the show, so Barrett hopes it will help audience members get a feel for “what type of experience they’re going to have,” she said.
In addition to a great play with hard-working actors, that experience includes exploration and discussion of important topical issues.
“Gender is a part of everyday conversation,” Barrett said. “This is a great way to continue that conversation.”
So will any or all of the 50 couples make it down the aisle? That’s the biggest question of “Big Love.” Audiences will have to RSVP to the wedding (i.e., buy a ticket) to find out.
IF YOU GO
What; “Big Love”
Where: Villanova Theatre, Vasey Hall, Villanova University, Lancaster and Ithan avenues, Villanova.
When: Preview Nov. 11; opens Nov. 12; runs 8 p.m. Tue.-Sat. and 2 p.m. Sun., through Nov. 23.
Tickets: $21-$25; discounts for seniors, students, and groups.
Info.: Call (610) 519-7474 or visit www.villanovatheatre.org.