The Big Meal

20 Feb

After reading a review in the Chicago Tribune, Abe bought tickets to the Friday night performance of The Big Meal at the American Theater Company.  The American Theater Company is a small, independent theater on Lincoln and Byron.  From the outside, you wouldn’t think much (though it has that Chicago-brick signature that I love). 

On the inside, it’s exactly what you would expect – unfinished floors and a makeshift box office, posters, small stage and lots of seats in the round.

The Big Meal is a small story about ordinary lives.  But it’s incredibly well-done.  There is one set – a dinner table in the middle of the stage. When the play opens, two twenty-somethings – Sam and Nicole – are bantering and flirting at the table.  80 minutes later (minutes are years here), the two are married, have children, lose parents, have grandchildren, lose children and grandchildren and grow very old themselves.  This all happens around the table, as family often does.

The amazing thing is that eight actors total play all 30 or so (? – I completely lost track) family members (including the younger and older versions of each other).  With the change of jewelry or a hair accessory, a daughter becomes a single mother becomes a grown up great-granddaughter; a son becomes the son of himself becomes the son of the single mother and goes off to Iraq.  It is slightly confusing.  But completely works (you get the gist, anyway, even when you don’t know who is who).

The family is loving, hostile, happy, sad, close, far; your family, really.  And everyone is always moving.  Literally.  On and off stage, from one chair at the table to another.  It is a living family tree.  An approximation of the American life.  On speed.  Ultimately, it was a moving and sad story.  A foreshadowing of things that will come.

I truly loved it.  Art like The Big Meal is a big part of the reason we live in Chicago.  Such great stuff here.

Oh but – you’ll need to be sharp to keep up with The Big Meal.  So, do not enjoy this homemade ginger cocktail with star anise and fresh cracked pepper at Sola beforehand.  Definitely enjoy it sometime, though.

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