A luscious feast for the soul, “The Big Meal” by Dan Le Franc is a simple but charming, sometimes lighthearted, sometimes serious family drama with four pairs of males and females playing characters as they age through 80 years and four generations. The notion is simple and might be a bit schmaltzy, but under Sam Gold’s crisp direction, it is smart and sensitive.
It’s the American frontier in the late 1800s. The wood cabin set is probably too burnished to resemble the shabbier wood of the time, but you get the idea. What is surprising is that setting Shakespeare’s play in a time and place when women were extremely independent and self-reliant, director Arin Arbus – a woman – has given it an egregiously sexist staging.
The Signature Theater Company revival of Edward Albee’s 1977 play is subtle and biting at the same time, an allegory wrapped in what could have been a dark neighbors sitcom.
The party Sam (a sensitive Michael Hayden) and Jo (a tough and powerful Laila Robins) are hosting in their suburban house for some friends seems pretty deadly. How can they be having a party when Jo, curled up in an easy chair, is dying of a cancer which occasionally sets her to writhing in pain. She sets it out pretty clear, pretty early: “I am your wife and I am dying.”
Monica Bauer’s play about jazz and race, presented by Urban Stages, is a finely polished gem. Inspired by the playwright’s youth in Omaha, Nebraska, it is a love song to jazz and its ability to unite people across color lines and also a sorrowful memoir of the time in the sixties when racism erupted into riotous violence. Director Frances Hill uses frequent jazz passages and projections (by Kevin R. Frech) to create mood and reality in an intimate space.
In almost a chamber concert of a play, memory and fantasy intrude in Tina Howe’s drama of a family in which the parents are in decline from their artistically productive years and the daughter is moving up. Her feelings for them are part love and part resentment at what she sees as their self-centered interference with her own artistic development and triumphs.