March 29-April 14
University of Iowa Theatre Building, David Thayer Theatre
More than film, literature, painting or almost any medium, theatre is a living, breathing art form. We see the performers on stage, we share a space with them, connect directly to them and, through this connection, also connect to the very text being spoken onstage. Despite the literal liveliness of the performance, it’s incredibly difficult to make ancient texts relevant and engaging to a modern audience. Rare is the show that can be performed in a similar style and vernacular to that which existed hundreds and hundreds of years ago and still reach contemporary spectators the way it would have in its original heyday. People today have access to about as much entertainment as they could possibly ask for, so it’s quite a feat that playwright Charles Mee’s modern-day adaptation of Aeschylus’s The Suppliant Women—perhaps one of the oldest surviving texts in Western literature—has become such a popular piece.
One of many modern-day adaptations of classical Greek plays by Mee, Big Love follows 50 would-be brides, arranged to be married to 50 brothers, as they flee from the altar with said grooms hot on their heels. While closely following what remains of Aeschylus’s text, the play also updates several details. For example, the show’s setting is moved from the ancient city of Argos to modern day Italy, and the 50 grooms arrive on stage via helicopter raid. With its 50 potentially failed marriages, Big Love offers both the catharsis that traditional Greek plays are known for and modern-day spectacle equal to the most ridiculously excessive Broadway production. The show involves a great deal of physical theatricality, making it a fitting showcase for Director Paul Kalina’s expertise in theater movement.
Big Love is a faithful take on the gender conflicts presented in the source material. Through this adaptation, Mee demonstrates that, although many of the superficial details have changed, many of the inequities and tensions of our modern experience are not so different from the ones that plagued humankind over 2,000 years ago.
More information at theatre.uiowa.edu
Iowa City Community Theatre Presents: Gigi
The Englert Theatre
If the grand, ancient cities of Italy or Greece don’t grab you, maybe a turn-of-the-century Paris—the true city of love—is more down your alley. Like Big Love, Gigi resurrects an “ancient” text whose time has long-since passed: It’s based on a Hollywood musical. The 1959 motion-picture musical of the same name was among the last big-budget musical films produced during the genre’s original height.
Gigi features musical numbers such as “The Night They Invented Champagne”, “I Remember it Well” and the now-infamous “Thank Heaven for Little Girls.” Directed by Josh Sazon, the show features a cast of local familiar faces, including Stephen Swanson, who is performing his one-hundredth singing role in the show (fitting, considering it’s also the Englert’s one-hundredth year of operation). Musical enthusiasts of all ages aren’t going to want to miss this show.
More information at: www.englert.org.
A Steady Rain
March 30-April 15
When the original production of Keith Huff’s A Steady Rain opened on Broadway back in 2009, the show broke the record for the highest weekly gross of a non-musical production. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when your show features A-list stars Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig but, more than most big-budget, star-studded productions, the show was embraced by critics as well as audiences in its original run.
The show, directed by Joseph Price, follows two police officers and lifelong friends, Joey and Denny, whose friendship is challenged after they realize one of them must take responsibility for the accidental death of a young Vietnamese boy. The two main characters seem at first to be mere character types (the introverted, tormented alcoholic vs. the cordial family man who secretly is cheating on his wife), but they are written well and as we hear each character’s side of the story, the complexity of each comes through. A Steady Rain is at the same time a gripping noir thriller and an intimate character study.
Walking the Wire: This Will Never Work
Riverside’s annual collection of monologues is back again this month with a collection of pieces about “hare-brained schemes.” This year’s selection of twelve pieces features an array of playwrights from around the country as well as several local writers. Directed by Riverside’s own Jody Hovland, this year’s WtW is sure to be one you won’t want to miss.
Find a list of this year’s Walking the Wire monologues at riversidetheatre.org.
Levi Smith has never been to Greece, Italy or even France, but has been an active theater-goer his entire life and is currently an undergrad at The University of Iowa earning a double major in Cinema and Theater Arts.