The Big Meal Review @ The new Century Theatre Company

January 18, 2017

This is a triumph in contemporary theatre. It strips away the vanities of staged productions; of manufactured choreography, and of banal dialogue that is trying to stretch an atom of an idea into a densely compact story. The rhythm of this exploration into the human life, in which every kind universally has been cast slings and arrows of misfortune, is so strikingly perfect, the audience has no time to actually pontificate what is happening. Only that, just like the underestimated preciousness of human life in this age, it happens so fast one wonders why it ends so soon.


Without any preconceived notion of what The Big Meal portends to be upon its beginning, one has the impression that this will be some sort of tale about the dramatics in an old fashion diner; perhaps the funny interactions between patrons and workers, and the tempest that brews through the quotidian yet artful combinations of human daily life. In fact, this is indeed how the play begins! Yet how the entire story is centripetally focused around the genesis of not simply love but life, because of a diner, is an enormous suggestion on the exquisite beauty of simply living. Notice now, a drama does not need to involve far away exotic characters, in faraway exotic lands, in order to create suspense. The everyday life of the common man suffices; for inside of even him, which aspires to nothing more than to subsist as peacefully as possible, there is a latent power surge that can and does burst when the timing is opportune.


Clearly this is a play that is devoid of the political, and gratefully so. Some may criticize this as being insensitive; yet demonstrating typical Americana with the newfound wrinkle of contemporary life, of broken families for instance, reveals universal truths in every body, transcending what makes us different by revealing what makes us common. The truths excavated in this inquisition will touch every human, regardless of their motions in this world. And that defines artistic genius.


So does The Big Meal glorify mediocrity? Of centering the stage on the common life? How would that be inspirational? It isn’t because it does not. It glorifies that aforementioned power found in the human condition to live. It makes transparent the sinusoidal pathways every life leads. And triumphantly makes patent that as a complementary mannerism to being human, humanity cherishes the struggle, the utter impedance to simply being. Life would not be life without the limitations and consequences of those limitations imposed; of being impotent against the canvas of the cosmos and what lurks around the corner. Do we see any of the characters despise, and resent, their tragic condition? Does the entire theatre swell in tears as it did upon viewing because of a frustration with these facts? No. They are embraced and ultimately mourned because ultimately, the truest tragedy of being alive is that it has to end.


Such an affirmation of life, so elegantly and minimally depicted, is also a hallmark of artistic genius.


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