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Blogger Visit: "The Big Meal"

Now Playing Through April 22, 2012

Posted March 24, 2012

According to one recent study, Americans spend an average of 74 minutes a day eating or drinking – that’s 450 hours a year. If the average life expectancy for Americans is 78.5 years, that means that we spend over 35,000 hours at the dining table — about 4 years. It’s no wonder that so many of life’s events take place over a knife and fork. Playwright Dan LeFranc transforms this idea into the heartwarming, heartbreaking, altogether wonderful new comedy-drama THE BIG MEAL, now enjoying a limited engagement at Playwrights Horizons.

One couple at three ages: Cameron Scoggins and Phoebe Strole; David Wilson Barnes and Jennifer Mudge; Tom Bloom and Anita Gillette. Photos by Joan Marcus.

In 90 swift-moving minutes, LeFranc tells the intimately epic story of a typical couple and multiple generations of their family, from the day Sam and Nicky meet as a waitress and diner, to their courtship, breakup, reunion, marriage, family-rearing years, and eventually as grandparents and great-grandparents in war and peace, sickness and health, and laughter and tears… And always at a dining table of some sort.

The stellar cast of nine (a pair for four different generations and a waitress) switches roles as the characters age, in essence playing their own children and parents in sickness and in health as the generations fly by. And in LeFranc’s canny script, time does not progress – each scene plays out in what seems to be the modern day, with idiomatic dialogue.

The result is something of an Our Town for our time, with snappy hyper-theatrical scenes that shift between time periods with nary a pause in-between. Time slows down to a human pace only when food appears for the characters to eat their final meals as the rest of the ensemble looks on intently. And because the actors trade roles, this coup de theatre at times creates the effect of characters watching their future selves.

Sam Gold (Circle Mirror Transformation, the current revival of Look Back in Anger) proves himself again to be one of our finest young directors, eliciting layered performances from his ensemble members (each of whom play at least four characters). His fluid staging keeps the constant time and character shifts crystal-clear while maintaining visual variety on David Zinn's set of sliding tables, chairs and banquettes.

LeFranc is a playwright to watch, and theatre-lovers owe it to themselves to see THE BIG MEAL, one of the finest new American plays of the year.

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