“Big Love,” a play about marriage and the complicated relationships between men and women, addresses a variety of issues. From the rights of women to choose (all things) to why men want to get married. Written by Charles Mee, the work is based on the greek play “The Suppliants” by Aeschylus where 50 brides are forced to marry 50 grooms. “Big Love” features modern twists on the ancient play, including contemporary music and cursing.
The production features representations of extreme feminism and extreme misogyny along with everything between this spectrum. One character, Thyona, is the stereotypical extreme feminist who hates men. Another character, Olympia, is a woman who just wants to be loved by a man. Throughout the play, these two, along with five others, discuss and sometimes argue what it means to be a woman, and specifically, what it means for a woman to love a man.
They tackle heated issues such as rape, abortion, homosexuality, arranged marriage and so forth. This play is impressive in the ways it leaves no issue undiscussed. Many of the woman in the play were stuck between Thyona and Olympia’s opinions, not hating men but not wanting to completely submit to them either. One of the women is pregnant, the ownership of her body already taken away from her. Another is a lesbian and resents the fact that women are expected to be frail and feminine. Most of the women agree that men do bad things, but not all men are bad. This type of discussion and confusion is something that is seen continuously in classrooms and media today and in our own university.
The play starts with this intense feminist discussion happening until suddenly the groom’s appear, with their own kind of opinions to argue. Constantine, who is betrothed to the extremist feminist Thyona, is the embodiment of misogyny. He is convinced he will marry Thyona, whether she likes it or not. He has the traditional view that a man should rule over women and if the woman does not comply, force should be used. In the same case as the women, the men do not all agree with Constantine. One man, Nikos, wants a real love connection with his bride, while also accepting that may not be what she wants. The scene where the men and women collide is a heated debate of consent and force. The women argue that marrying them by force is saying that they don’t have ownership over their bodies and that consummating the marriage would be rape.
One cannot help but relate to the women throughout the play, whether it is with the hopeless romantic or the extreme feminist or someone who does not even like men romantically or something in between.
In a beautiful scene with Nikos and Lydia, who are betrothed, Nikos explains that he has always adored Lydia, for more things than her body, and desires to make a real love connection with her. They start to dance using choreography that represents both the man and women relying on each other, as equal counterparts. This is a moment of hope in the story, that maybe men and women can be good for each other and was beautifully done.
This idea of love and how men and women approach it differently is a large and in-depth question that is not exactly answered by this play. Except, in the last moments of the play, when after the marriage ceremony all the grooms are dead and the brides are murderers. Excluding Nikos and Lydia, who are enjoying their new marriage by having sex in a bathtub, are then put on trial for not hating each other. The conclusion is met through a beautiful speech by a grandmother, that although there is hate between men and women, there can also be love and when that love is genuine and real it is a beautiful thing and should be celebrated.