A View from the Cliff: “Big Love” is big hit at Brooklyn College

Surreal. Beautiful. Bizarre. Brooklyn College’s Department of Theater has opened its season with an incredible verbal and visual assault. It is a mesmerizing, masterful combination of contradictions from Aeschylus’ ancient tragedy “The Suppliants.” The modern version by playwright Charles Mee at Walt Whitman Theatre is delivered with breathtaking power.

Director Mary Beth Easley continues to provide bold interpretations. At Friday evening’s sold-out performance, she transforms Mee’s vision. The actors and creative support have met the challenge with riveting efficiency. The story itself involves 50 unwilling brides seeking asylum. The frenzied events can be described as brutal passion marked by passionate brutality.

The setting is modern, with an eerie echo of ancient tragedies. The old woman, Bella, (Judylee Vivier) is a combination of Greek chorus, oracle and sage. One of her 13 sons is Giuliano, well played by Naren Weiss. His carefree role is in stark contrast to the well defined brides and grooms.

Lydia (Carolyn Coppedge) enters. She is beautiful and level-headed, keeping her voice and mannerisms at a steady pace. Older sister Thyona (Stephanie King) and younger Olympia (Nazli Sarpkaya) are not so even-tempered.  Ms. King clings to her character’s dominant personality with well-played, unrelenting fury.  Ms. Sarpkaya gives her character a clueless sense of sensuality and go-with-the-crowd illogic.

The three grooms are surprisingly similar to their brides-to-be. Tall, bearded Constantine (Richard McDonald) is a fierce, proud male whose dominance is equal to Thyona. Nikos (Matt Baguth) actually displays civility and normal emotions as he courts his marital match, Lydia. Oed (Henry Ponthieu) also seems like a good match for coquettish Olympia. But will he ever get the chance?

The play’s political overtones are seen in diplomatic but ruthless Piero (Jose Sonera). Other political metaphors include Eleanor (Audra Hans) and Leo (Joe Masi). They are kind or cruel as the situations require.

Applause is deserved as well for the truly outstanding and imaginative set design (Emma Mendelson), costume design (Jihyun Kim), lighting design (Yi Zhao), sound design and music direction (Mark Bruckner), fight direction (Robert Tuftee) and stage management (Rebecca Guskin). The talented ensemble (14 brides and grooms) is too numerous to acknowledge by name.

There is still one weekend remaining for this amazing modern tragedy. Surf todepthome.brooklyn.cuny.edu/theater/ or to www.brooklyncenter.org. Call 718-951-5666 or 4500. The next production is just weeks away. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.

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