@ The Black Box Theatre, 430 N. Main St.

Big Love

By Charles Mee, directed by Ceil Herman

  • L to R: Deborah (Thyona), Shay Lydick (Lydia) and Rachel Young (Olympia)
  • L to R: Matthew Esqueda (Giuliano), Rachel Young (Olympia), Deborah Yates (Thyona) and Sherrie Hildreth (Eleanor)
  • L to R: Mike Cook (Piero), Rachel Young (Olympia), Deborah Yates (Thyona) and Shay Lydick (Lydia)
  • L to R: Rachel Young (Olympia) and Shay Lydick (Lydia)
  • Matthew Esqueda (Giuliano)
  • L to R: Deborah (Thyona), Nikka Ziemer (Bella) and Rachel Young (Olympia)
  • L to R: Sherrie Hildreth (Eleanor) and Josh Jones (Leo)
  • L to R: Deborah (Thyona), Shay Lydick (Lydia), Josh Shakra (Nikos) Joseph Lopez (Constentine), Frankie Rentas (Oed) and Rachel Young (Olympia)
  • L to R: Deborah (Thyona), Shay Lydick (Lydia) and Rachel Young (Olympia)
  • L to R: Frankie Rentas (Oed), Josh Shakra (Nykos) and Joseph Lopez (Constentine)

May 04-May 13, 2007

FRI MAY 4,11 | 8:00 PM
SAT MAY 5,12 | 8:00 PM
SUN MAY 6,13 | 2:30 PM
THUR MAY 10 | 7:00 PM




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House Manager Coordinator
Light & Sound Board Operator
Set & Light Design
Stage Manager
Written By


Play takes a jab at matrimony
- By Shannon Bell, NMSU Roundup

Though many quarrels will try to get in the way, "love trumps all" in "Big Love," a modern play with a comedic look at the bigger picture of matrimony, now showing at the Black Box Theater.

With a cast that seems like a "who's who" of New Mexico State University students and alumni, as well as a few local theater veterans in the mix, the show is a smart portrayal of contemporary romance.

Fifty sisters have been promised to 50 brothers, who also happen to be their cousins, through marriages that have been arranged since birth. In an attempt to stop fate, or at least slow it down, the sisters flee their homeland of Greece and find themselves in Italy.

The girls wander into a home belonging to an Italian family, who have many offspring of their own. In one of many hilarious scenes, the mother of the house, Bella, played by Nikka Gornitzka Zimer, tells about her sons using a basket of tomatoes as a prop.

The sisters come 50 strong, but the play highlights three: Lydia, Olympia and Thyona. Each sibling takes a slightly different view of relationships.

Olympia, played by NMSU alum Rachel Young, is the free-spirited sister with the most optimistic outlook of the three. Thyona, portrayed by NMSU alum Deborah Yates, sits at the opposite side from Olympia, with a cynical view of her arranged marriage and the male species in general.

"Men are a biological accident," Thyona quips in the play.

Lydia, played by NMSU theater student Shay Lydick, falls somewhere in the middle of her two sisters. She has to come to terms with being loyal to her siblings while, in the meantime, unintentionally falling in love with her betrothed, Nikos, played by yet another NMSU alum, Josh Shakra.
Nikos and two of his brothers, Constentine and Oed, show up in Italy to retrieve their runaway brides. These roles are filled by two more Aggies, theater major Joseph Lopez and alum Frankie Rentas. Not surprisingly, the brothers meet resistance.

Constentine gives a few forceful speeches on the nature of the male-female relationship, trying to convince his fiancee, Thyona, that she is not being forced into marriage anymore than she is forced through life.

"Life is rape," he says in the play, but naturally, it is only received by more of Thyona's icy glares.

Though Olympia speaks out against Thyona's feminist rants in favor of love and romance, she also admits to enjoying being submissive to a man. In the end, Olympia submits to her sister in a semi-tragic climax.

Those familiar with Greek mythology may recognize a few similarities that "Big Love" shares with the ancient story of the Danaides, the 50 sisters who killed their husbands on their wedding night. "Big Love" is an adaptation of Aeschylus' "The Suppliant Maidens," the only remaining play left of a trilogy by the author.

"Big Love" examines the larger picture, offering a multi-faceted view of love. There is Thyona with her cynicism, Olympia and her giddy optimism, as well as Giuliano, a son of the lady of the house, portrayed hilariously by NMSU student Matthew Esqueda. Giuliano represents the homosexual ingredient to this mix of ideas, illustrated by an entertaining dance with a hot pink feather boa.

With "Big Love," there is enough room for everyone, even murderess brides and the husbands who fall to their wrath.

Big cast scores with 'Big Love'
NSTC retells Greek myth in modern times

- By Joel Courtney, Las Cruces Bulletin

No Strings Theatre Company remains on the cutting edge of modern theater with their newest production, "Big Love," by Chuck Mee and directed by Ceil Herman.

The tale is ancient, originally known as "The Suppliant Maidens," by Aeschylus. Aeschylus based his story on an ancient myth of the Danaides, or daughters of Danaus.

Although seemingly complex, the story begins simply. Two brothers each have 50 children, one with 50 daughters and one with 50 sons. The brothers agree early on that the children will be married and draw up a contract.

As is expected, when the time comes for the cousins to marry, not everyone agrees with the original proposal. The 50 daughters flee from their cousins by boat to the shores of Italy and the home of Piero (Mike Cook).

Piero lives a simple life on his estate with his family, most notably his nephew Giuliano (Matthew Esqueda) and mother Bella (Nikka Ziemer).

Although all the girls have fled, only three come ashore to make their case for asylum, Lydia (Shay Lydick), Olympia (Rachel Young) and Thyona (Deborah Yates).

The girls are as different as can be and seem to uphold the ancient Greek theme of the different stages of womanhood. Olympia is young, girly, easily persuaded and boy-crazy. Lydia wants romantic love, cares about her family and is much more grounded. Thyona is bitter, angry, bossy and even murderous.

To match the women are three of the 50 grooms, Nikos (Josh Shakra), Constantine (Joseph Lopez) and Oed (Frankie Rentas). Much like their counterparts, Nikos is a romantic, Constantine is a jerk and Oed does as his brothers say.
Just to add more to the stew of conflict are Piero's houseguests from America, Leo (Josh Jones) and Eleanor (Sherrie Hildreth).

The girls get advice from everyone at Piero's estate, mostly telling them to accept their fate. Needless to say, when push comes to shove, the girls are more than willing to do whatever it takes to not marry their cousins.

The performance is particularly interesting because it combines wonderful choreography by Debra Knapp quite seamlessly into the story. Dance becomes another medium for the actors who use interpretive dance to express their pain and even dance their fights.

The soundtrack was a special treat, with a mix of classical compositions and golden oldies.

The set, although minimal-ist, uses three benches to grand effect.

The cast as a whole performed well individually but also had a solid chemistry. The dynamic of Piero's family, the girls fleeing their country and the boys chasing them felt real, as if the bonds between the groups were palpable.

Especially notable was the dynamic between Lydia and Nikos, who were able to connect on stage and display feelings that were moving and made the entire story believable. Lydick and Shakra performed fabulously and will enjoy a bright future on the Las Cruces stage and wherever they perform.

Notes on Big Love
- by Frankie Rentas, Dramaturg

No Strings Theatre Company presents "Big Love" by Charles Mee, directed by NSTC's Artistic Director, Ceil Herman. This entertaining and engaging play which opens Friday, April 27 and runs through May 13, at the Black Box Theatre, 430 N Downtown Mall, is a modernization of an ancient myth which deals with justice, revenge, and the enduring power of love.

An ancient sunset blazes over the fertile plain of Argos in present-day Greece. Peasants lying idly on the grass watch as Helios rides the daytime fire into the horizon. On cue, the silent, beautiful and eerie glow of Io, believed to be the moon in the archaic Argive tradition, peers into the darkness. Is the coast clear?

She once hid from Zeus, who fell in love with her and eventually ravished her against her wishes. The jealous Hera suspected this rendezvous and, regardless of Zeus's attempts to disguise Io as a heifer, exiled Io from Argos by sending a gadfly to sting her into madness if she did not flee. Always running from her pursuers, Io now attempts to conceal herself among the clouds, but there is no real escape from the numerous glistening eyes in the sky, watching her every move. Little does Io know that her journey to the land we now call Egypt will actually ignite a family feud of epic proportions just a few generations down the line.

Only six kilometers to the north of these very same peasants, poignant bronze sculptures left behind by the Mycenaean civilization offer a clue into the story. They are a series of women carrying perforated urns, apparently trying to fill an even larger vessel, but the water perpetually leaks out, forcing them to repeat this fruitless labor for all of eternity. They must be the descendents of Io, the Danaides, as they were called in Argos. They are hailed as the fifty demigoddesses who returned to Argos to make the land fertile and watered, but they must have done something terrible in order to meet with such an eternal fate.

They obviously came from Egypt if they are descendents of Io. What is the story of their flight? How did they end up back in Argos, and what horrible deed had they committed there? More questions plague the minds of these Argive peasants, who watch nightly as Io makes her cursed appearance in the sky. Aeschylus records this story in dramatic form in "The Suppliant Maidens," the beginning of a trilogy that details the incredible story of the Danaides. Fifty women in flight from fifty pursuers, much like their ancestor Io. Who were these male pursuers, connected to the women by only two members of the bloodline, and what did they want with them?

Fast forward almost 2500 years, and we get "Big Love," a contemporary re-imagining of the Aeschylus trilogy written by Charles Mee. Although "The Suppliant Maidens" is the only extant play that has survived from the three-part story, Mee has taken what little is known of the other two in order to create a cohesive plot that is very Greek in nature, but also modern in depth - love, friendship, revenge, power, war, battle of the sexes, blood, and family bonds - it's all there. Mee has made fascinating parallels to some of the most important characters and stories in ancient Greek history, and through drama, comedy and dance, the No Strings Theatre Company production offers a unique experience where antiquity meets the reality of our day.

The members of the talented and versatile cast of "Big Love" are Mike Cook, Matthew Esqueda, Sherrie Hildreth, Josh Jones, Joseph Lopez, Shay Lydick, Frankie Rentas, Josh Shakra, Deborah Yates, Rachel Young, and Nikka Ziemer. NMSU Dance Program director Debra Knapp is the Choreographer, Meredith Loring is Costume Designer, Peter Herman designed sets and lights and Frankie Rentas is the Dramaturg. Mark Hammersmith is Stage Manager.


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