The Big Meal
(Review by Tulis McCall)
While I know the author would like me to get what The Big Meal is, I must say there is more than one species of big meal in this play.
Played to perfection by this cast, this is the story of one particular branch of a family tree. Nicole and Sam meet in a restaurant where she works. Neither wants a relationship, although that is what they end up having. They drift apart and cross paths again years later at another restaurant. Soon the game is back on. They have children. They lose their parents. Their children marry and have families of their own. Sam and Nora age and end up like the parents we first met.
Kind of a ho-hum story, but this cast and Sam Gold deliver a production that shines. We see that LeFranc's strength is his ability to orchestrate events with overlapping dialogue - even the script is set up with columns for each character so that you get the feeling that when they are not in a scene, they are still lurking.
And indeed they are because most of these actors morphs into a relation that from another generation. LeFranc presents the scenes with no interruption or explanation, so it us up to us to p-a-y a-t-t-e-n-t-i-o-n. Within minutes, it seems of meeting Maddie and Robbie (Sam and Nicole's children) the kids have grown and are dating a revolving door of people. Boom there is a wedding. Bad-a-bing there is a death. LeFranc is able to distill life's nuggets into instantly recognizable moments. Some are hilarious. Some are poignant. Some are devastating.
What LeFranc does not achieve is a story line. Once we get the conceit and are going with the flow, we want a story to latch onto. We never get one. Yes, this is the story of a family, and within that are all the machinations that make many of us leave town for family holidays, only to return disappointed and vowing never to do that again. As well there are the moments of transcendence that can only be shared with family. These are exquisitely captured.
But when we hold up our little bowl and ask for more, as we are wont to do, there is no more. That is an enormous disappointment. It does not ruin the evening, but it surely lets the air out of the tires because what he lacks in story he adds with text that is more or less padding. This show could easily lose 15 minutes.
Le Franc has created such fascinating characters that he could have picked any one of them to carry the banner. Once a writer does that, the important bits make themselves known. Nothing is lost, and a path is discovered. Instead it appears that he was more devoted to his presentation than his content.
I look forward to seeing LeFranc's work again when he trusts himself to find the dominant flavor the meal and discovering what can be left out.
"Compels interest more from its roller-coaster pacing, ..., than for any fresh insights into the fabric of contemporary family life."
Charles Isherwood for New York Times
"Tasty and energetically acted little comedy."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News
"Make(s) you realize that like any big picture, a family is made of small moments."
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post
"A richly satisfying repast."
Erik Haagensen for Back Stage
"LeFranc's ultimately touching new play is seamlessly crafted and the piece is charmingly acted "
Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey
"The level of emotional involvement is ultimately limited."
Marilyn Stasio for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...
New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - Back Stage - Newsroom Jersey - Variety
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