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Theater Department presents Big Love

BY SAMANTHA GENTRY | APRIL 05, 2012 6:30 AM

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In the dimly lit Thayer Theater, the audience sits on both sides of a ramp-like structure that has a white bathtub spotlighted on the far side.

Deanna Brookens, who plays the role of Lydia, emerges from the arch of the ramp and becomes mesmerized by the bathtub.

She begins to take off what appears to be a wedding dress as she walks closer to the tub, which is surrounded by red rose petals.

Before the audience knows it, she is naked and submerged in the water.

What some might call a risky choice by the director is how playwright Charles L. Mee wrote the scene.

After that moment, the audience learns that Lydia has fled to an Italian villa with her 50 sisters, who are escaping the arranged marriages to their 50 cousins.

But when the cousins find the girls and rappel from the ceiling dressed in fighter-pilot jumpsuits, the audience knows that they aren't safe in this family affair.

Big Love is a comedy that not only covers sexuality and gender roles but also the pain that can come from falling in love.

The production is physically exhausting for several of the actors, who continually slam their bodies onto the floor as if they were in a cage fight.

They constantly jump, run, and somersault on stage during various scenes, while complaining about the troubles they have with the opposite sex.

Paul Kalina, the director of Big Love, stressed the importance of the physiciality in the play.

"Charles L. Mee writes that the physical life of the play is as important as the language and the words of the play," Kalina said. "For me, just the way it's written, I wanted to bring that to the play as much as possible."

Big Love is a sexually driven story especially shown by characters Eleanor and Leo, two guests staying in the Italian villa.

UI junior Elizabeth Kilmer, who plays Eleanor, she said that from the first day, she knew she would have to kiss graduate student John Watkins, who plays Leo.

"We kiss back stage before we go on," Watkins said. "There was a permission to go wherever we needed to go [with the kiss]."

The two are also the only ones in the show who play double roles — they also play the owners of the villa. The difficulty wasn't playing two different people but that the characters weren't written with much direction, Watkins said.

"There isn't a lot from the text, so you have to pull from your own," he said. "It's using your body in a different way with a different tempo."

After one weekend of performances under their belt, the actors said, they have discovered what scenes in the comedy are funny and what's not by the audience's reaction.

"This has been the most fun I've had on stage in a really long time," Kilmer said. "It takes you on a roller coaster, and I'm just excited to keep sharing it with people."


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