The Big Meal
7:30 pm Wednesdays-Sundays, 2 pm Sundays through Oct. 6., Sunday September 29 | $25-$55.
How much time do we spend around the dining-room table? What portion of our lives is measured in meals? Can the entire scope of a life—from first dates and holiday gatherings to engagements and pregnancies and grief—be depicted at the table? With beautiful and deceptive simplicity, Dan LeFranc’s The Big Meal
—directed by Dámaso Rodriguez, Artists Rep’s new artistic director, proves it can. As the play begins, the young Sam and Nicole (played at first by Andy Lee-Hillstrom and Britt Harris) meet at the restaurant where she works. From there, five generations of a family navigate life’s joys and dramas as if in a time-lapse photograph, launching ahead weeks or years but always coming back together at the table. Artists Rep veterans Vana O’Brien and Allen Nause (who served as the company’s artistic director for more than 20 years) anchor the eight-member cast masterfully. The actors play family members of a range of ages, gliding between roles with expertly adapted mannerisms. As a young Nicole, Harris is neurotic and angry, while middle-aged Nicole (played by a delightful Val Landrum) develops a sharp-tongued wit and perpetually clutches a glass of wine. The character of Sam remains naive and good-humored but gains a noticeable weariness. The transitions are aided with deft effects—a shift of light or clatter of dishes signifying that months or years have passed. When O’Brien, playing a now-elderly Nicole, wonders aloud and mostly to herself “Where does the time go?” it is with a heartbreaking poignancy. Everyone we know and love will pass through our lives, often too quickly, and we ourselves will one day finish our last meal and leave the table.
Artists Repertory TheatrePhone:
1515 SW Morrison St.Website: http://www.artistsrep.org/onstage/2013---2014-season/the-big-meal.aspx