Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Big Meal

The Big Meal shifts across eighty years of dinners, starting with a random pickup between Sam and his waitress, Nicole, and ending with an epically casual goodbye that confronts death as powerfully as anything I've seen on stage since Young Jean-Lee's Lear. He does so with spot-on language as strong as anything from natural contemporaries like Annie Baker, and if some find his characters a bit thin, they're missing the universal appeal of Dan LeFranc's approach. As for Sam Gold, there's simply not enough I can say about this director's ability to stage concept-heavy pieces in a fashion that keeps the emphasis on the characters.

Even if you absolutely abhor structural works, I strongly recommend The Big Meal. Knowing that the last meal is only just around the corner -- but not for whom -- keeps the stakes (or steaks) almost unbearably tense, and watching life find a way to bloom regardless is an interesting affair. Time flies by, but it's hard to register those changes in ourselves: not so in LeFranc's world, where characters go from hating squalling gibbonous brats to monkeying right along with them, where fractures mend in a tragic instant (or fester in fast-forward), and where memories (of, say, Barcelona) revise themselves in real-time. 

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