Dan LeFranc’s roundelay, THE BIG MEAL (at Zeitgeist Stage through March 7th), follows two ordinary twenty-somethings, named Sam and Nicole, through courtship (beginning with an impulsive hook up) and marriage to life’s tragic inevitabilities.
The trick in THE BIG MEAL is that different actors portray a character as (s)he grows up, switching at the drop of a hat. It’s a bit confusing at first (and at last) but in between it all makes sense: Little brats may mature to become (more or less) responsible adults but the conversations remain the same over four generations. LeFranc makes the dialogue banal on purpose because (I assume) most conversation is.
This leaves the emotional life of the play up to a director to fill in the blanks. David Miller deftly creates the humor and the depth between the lines, chiefly aided by Peter Brown as a crusty old coot, a feisty in-law and in his most touching turn, as a man facing down dementia. Shelley Brown, too, gives a strong performance as the mother, grandmother and best of all, as a woman alone, looking at a future without a partner. The younger actors play, well…young, which isn’t nearly as interesting as what the older actors get to play. How often does that happen! Of course, that’s from my older, biased perspective.