By Potoula Anagnostakos
Assistant Arts and Entertainment Editor
LIU Post’s Little Theatre Mainstage is gearing up for their next production. “Big Love,” written by Charles L. Mee, and directed by Jason Jacobs, is edgy, dark, and thought provoking. As the playwright himself puts it: “It’s jagged, it has sharp angles. It’s like life.”
“Big Love” is an adaptation of “The Suppliants” by ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus, who was known as “the father of tragedy.” This particular work focuses on the story of 50 brides who flee to a manor in Italy to avoid marrying their 50 cousins. Mee’s play is full of blood, violence, death, and conflict — elements Aeschylus would surely approve of.
In the midst of this madness, there is a sigh of comic relief, provided by student-actors Emily Locklear and Jeffrey Tierney, who play lovers Eleanor and Leo. Locklear, a junior Musical Theatre major, described Eleanor as a British woman vacationing in Italy, who then meets Leo. “She absolutely [falls] in love with him,” said Locklear. “She used to be this uptight woman, and the joy and love she found in Italy opened her up.”
Tierney, a junior Acting major, stated the importance of the writing and acting in a play, and how the two components are essential for good characters. “When a play has both good writing and acting, the characters are given more depth. You don’t see a character and judge them,” he explained. “You should be able to see from the character’s point of view, [and] sympathize with them. There’s more to them than it seems. You learn their backstory.”
To build these strong characters, the actors built a strong connection with each other. “We’ve been approaching the play intellectually and physically,” said Locklear. “In rehearsal, we all stood in a circle, focusing on creating an open heart as a group. We would have to jump or turn in a circle at the same time.” By doing this unity exercise, the cast created a shared heartbeat, pulsing together throughout the show.
The cast and crew of “Big Love” recently rehearsed the play’s climax, in which particularly maddening elements are showcased. Without giving too much away: there is a wedding, and it is a most unholy matrimony, reminiscent of the “Red Wedding” from “Game of Thrones.” But bloodshed takes a lot of work, rehearsal, and blood packets.
Emma Barishman, a junior Musical Theatre major, is the production blood specialist. Her job is to figure out how to get blood on all of the characters that get killed. There are a few options: “We have spray bottles, water balloons filled with blood, and squeeze bottles filled with blood,” she said. These options are death scene-specific, so to speak. “Depending on how the person dies, that determines how we get blood on them,” Barishman explained. “We look at what kind of injuries they have on them and how the blood would leave those injuries. Depending on how you get killed, blood could pulse out, spray out, ooze out.”
“This is a big, physical show,” explained Jacobs, the director. “It’s an exciting challenge for the actors and myself, because the playwright asks for larger-than-life physical gestures to express the emotions of the play. Most of the plays you work on are more restrained — you are recreating ‘realistic’ behavior, or you have a set of rules: the historical setting, societal norms, and the story. This is a very open play, anything can happen. But it calls for us to express ourselves much bigger, louder, [and] fuller than we ever do in real life. That is an exciting challenge.”
Having directed the production of “Marat/Sade” last year, Jacobs is no stranger to bringing plays that have a bite to the stage. He does
so with incredible execution; his methods are clear and concise, his approach seen with an expert eye. These are shows that stick with you after you see them.
“Two things I really love about directing plays at LIU: First, the teachers choose really exciting, challenging, ambitious plays, and the department supports those productions. I aim to push my own boundaries by working here. Every time [Theatre Director] Maria Porter calls me, it’s like she’s saying ‘I dare you to come direct this show’, and I usually always want to say yes,” said Jacobs. “The other great thing is the attitude of the students in this program. I find these actors so courageous and willing to go for it. By and large, they also say ‘yes’ to the dares I give them. So everyone is working to push past boundaries. It’s not always easy or comfortable, but it’s always exciting. I love that.”
“Big Love” premiers at the Little Theatre Mainstage on Oct. 3-4, and Oct. 9-12 at 7:30 p.m. It will also be shown on Oct. 10 at 2 p.m., and again on Oct. 12 at 3 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the Post Theatre Company Box office, at $10 general admission and $5 for students and seniors with ID. For more information, call 516-299-2356.
“It’s a lot to take in,” exclaimed Locklear. “I had fun watching it!”