‘Big Love’ showcases a harrowing representation of marriage


Sarah Rose

Big Love is a play performed by NIU’s School of Theater and Dance. (Sarah Rose | Northern Star)

By Sarah Rose, Managing Editor

The scene is set: A summer evening on a villa terrace on the Italian coast. As the stage sits undisturbed in silence, three young women enter the room screaming, disrupting the only moment of peace the audience will get. 

On Friday, NIU’s School of Theatre and Dance performed its opening night of “Big Love,” a story about 50 women fleeing from their 50 husbands to the coast of Italy from their arranged marriages. The play is a modern, feminist retelling of the Greek play “The Danaides,” which followed the plot of 50 women killing their husbands on their wedding night. The play addresses heavy themes such as forced marriage, rape, violence and sexism. 

Julia Prieto, a first-year M.F.A. acting candidate, plays Lydia, one of the three sisters that are shown throughout the play. Prieto’s performance made it feel like she was the main character, adding the emotional depth to Lydia that’s needed for such a distressing role. Lydia acts as the peacekeeper between her two sisters Olympia, played by third-year acting candidate Maya Paletta, and Thyona, played by first-year M.F.A. acting candidate Gina Cioffi. 

At the end of the play, when Thyona and Olympia end up murdering their husbands, Lydia finds love with her husband Nikolas. Even though the end celebrates Lydia and Nikloas’ love, muder ensues.

“I guess my favorite part would be the end. I’m more of like a gorey person so when everyone was getting killed I was kind of laughing at it,” Macy Stevens, a first-year sociology/criminology major, said. 

The play is equally emotional as it is unsettling. There are scenes where the sisters and the three husbands quite literally throw themselves at the floor in fits of rage, all for different reasons. The sisters scream about the cruelty of the world and how it treats women, and the husbands scream about not marrying their fiances. 

Though the play had the audience mostly sitting in their seats in silence, there was a specific character that had everybody laughing whenever he spoke. It was Giuliano, an openly queer character, played by Paul James Lang, a first-year M.F.A. acting candidate.

“I am a member of the queer community and I strongly identify with representation of queer stories on stage. I was really attracted to speaking the words that this character speaks on stage because he embodies something that I’ve lived,” Lang said. 

Giuliano is the one who forms a sort-of bond with Lydia and helps her and her sisters find safety from their cousins, who they are being forced to marry. Lang delivers his one-liners with enough humor and conviction that, for a moment, the audience forgets about the violence that was just shown. 

The script also placed some comedic elements into the play that had the audience roaring their heads back in laughter, making those scenes stick out from the night. 

“The dildo fight was my favorite. That was definitely the highlight if you ask me,” Jacob Hackman, a sophomore finance major, said. 

The play started strong and ended even stronger. The final sequence is when everything comes together, and the brutality of it makes it hard to do anything but stare straight ahead and commend the satisfying ending. 

“In terms of the overall arc of the play, that final sequence is just really killer. Going into the wedding at the very end is really intense and it took a lot of time and staging,” Lang said. “But I think it really speaks to what the piece is about, that there’s some really intense stuff that we’re doing.”