Friday, January 10, 2020
THERE'S LOTS OF THOUGHT TO CHEW ON IN THIS "BIG MEAL"
By Chuck Graham, TucsonStage.com
photo by Creatista
Foreground, Kat McIntosh (L) and Chris Koval, background Lena Quah and Danny Quinones, in "The Big Meal."
The Holiday Season is a time of reflection for everyone, regardless of religion, and the Winding Road Theater Ensemble has opened a pip of a show to encourage exactly that.
“The Big Meal” by Dan LeFranc could use a more descriptive title, but its essence is pure heart. Not the Hallmark Greeting Card kind of heart but the kind that fills the minds of all parents, especially the ones we see who are older now and sitting alone at a restaurant booth, quietly contemplating the arc of their own lives, wondering “What the heck was that 67 years all about?”
LeFranc doesn't have the answer, either, but he does want to reassure each of us we are not alone in our confusion. And that parade of events we call “life,” while it must be lived individually, is definitely a continuous group experience for everyone every day.
The playwright's theatrical concept is to start with two people in their early 20s – Nicole and Sam – then have three sets of actors approximately in their 20s, 35s and 50s-plus portray Sam and Nicole as they hit those chronological milestones which feel so unique when they happen but which, really, happen to all of us.
There's also a teen-type couple playing all the children and grandchildren that Sam and Nicole are responsible for bringing into the world.
Yep, that makes a cast of eight, running in and out of continuously evolving scenes playing the parents, the children, the mates of the children, the grandchildren and – the all-forgiving great-grandparents for whom the youngest tots can do no wrong.
The intensely focused director, Maria A. Caprile, keeps the traffic moving around a circular dining table set for eight, and does create a fine ensemble feeling for 90 nonstop minutes of challenging emotions both loving and chaotic.
The cast members and their roles are: Woman #1, Cynthia Jeffery; Man #1, Tony Caprile; Woman #2, Kat McIntosh; Man #2, Chris Koval; Woman #3, China Young; Man #3, Damian Garcia; Girl, Lena Quach; and Boy, Danny Quinones.
The play spans approximately 80 years and five generations. Deliberately omitted are any cultural references such as the Vietnam War or disco. These lives are timeless. Their significant events are romantic courtship, heated arguments, selfish children, bitter divorces, wishes for a second chance....all that, but never in that order.
Caprile loves how the influence of parents and the past are always in the air, always influencing the future. In the program notes she quotes William Faulkner, “The past is not dead. It isn't even past.”
After the play, you may be quoting your own grandfather, but definitely plan on setting some time aside for discussion. Everybody will have a different take on this "Big Meal."
All the actors deliver on the reality of their moments in all these lives. Some of it is more or less deliberately confusing, don't even try to keep everything straight in your head. That's not even important.
The artistic point is that life is going to happen to all of us, no matter what. Will something that surprised you at age five come twisting and turning into a life-changing decision for you at age 23? If it does, don't be surprised.
“The Big Meal” continues through Dec. 22 in the Cabaret Space at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave. ,with performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $28 general admission, with generous discounts. For details and reservations, 520-401-3626, or visit windingroadtheater.org