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Dobama Theatre’s ‘The Big Meal’ is a healthy dose of reality

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The Big Meal


Dobama Theatre
2340 Lee Road
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
The Big Meal
Through January 5, 2014

“You get the family that you deserve” (I am not sure who first said this, it may have been me and I just don’t want to admit it) and “All children are doomed to turn into their parents” are two phrases that come to mind after seeing “The Big Meal” now playing at Dobama Theatre through January 5. It is a dramody that examines the multi-generational journey of a dys“fun”ctional (but without the fun part) family over a collection of family meals at a restaurant.

It begins as a rapid fire sequence of events between Sam and Nicole (played wonderfully by local favorites Derdriu Ring and Tom Woodward). In four minutes and seventeen seconds Boy Meets Girl, Boy Beds Girl (or visa versa), Girl Moves In With Boy, Boy And Girl Fight, Boy And Girl Break Up, Boy And Girl Meet Again, Boy And Girl Get Married, Boy And Girl Have Kids…then the “fun” begins.

There are several brilliant parts to this play written by Dan LeFranc and Directed by Joel Hammer. The first is the use of only eight actors to portray the many ages of the same characters. It would have helped if the program came with a family tree chart with photos to help keep everyone straight (but that is just me). The second is the use of simultaneous dialog where two, three and four people are all talking at once (much like all our families do at gatherings). Lastly there is the use of the waitress who brings actual food to the person who is next to die combined with the dimming of lights and a spot on the “soon to be departed”. The casting is exceptional. It is amazing how each member of the company is called upon to play various ages of the characters all without missing a beat.

There is racist Grandpa with his double entendres and his meek and long suffering wife, Sam and Nicole who should have quit while they were ahead with just living together, their two ADHD poster children (“I want a corn dog, why does he get the car all the time”) Maddie and Robbie who later spawn the next generation of damaged goods. Just when you begin to tire of the person who goes to extraordinary lengths to be heard, death pays a visit and they are dispatched after a quick bite of real food. Oh yes, I forgot to mention, everyone drinks to excess.

The set is intriguing. It has the look of a Purgatory Howard Johnsons only cooler. Black and White seems to be the prevailing set colors. There is the main center table where the big meals take place, two side tables for those intimate scenes between couples not worthy to sit at “the big table” and a row of two person tables in the back where the various actors lounge while waiting their cues to take over their generational parts.

As for complaints, there are a few. The pacing starts out at breakneck speed, and then drops considerably with the introduction of the children then to barely moving at the end but given the subject matter perhaps this is only natural. There are moments when the volume of shouting hurts the ears but I am guilty of this at my own home so I should not really judge. It is a challenging play to watch because of its complexity and after a month of “tinsel” it is quite a shock on the nervous system. Lastly, it is hard to really like anyone in the play. Each character has real faults that would drive you crazy if you had to live with them, but again this may be the whole point of the play. The biggest complaint I had was that this play cuts way too close to home. Rather than being in the audience you felt ready to don a napkin and join this group of misfits at the table.

Prude Alert: There is language (lots of language), fighting, arguing, sexual references, bigotry and death (Shakespeare would have been proud). If you are easily offended, I suggest a quiet dinner at home for you.

Shooting From The Lip (My Last Words): “The Last Meal” now playing at Dobama Theatre is an in your face reality show that will remind you of your family in all its graphic splendor. If you need a sugar reduction from all the “Holly Jolly” this month then this is a good shock therapy back to reality.

The Cast

Man #1, Bob Goddard; Man #2, Tom Woodward*; Man #3, Geoff Knox; Woman #1 Ann McEvoy; Woman #2, Derdriu Ring*; Woman #3, Llewie Nunez, Girl, Emily Kenville; Boy, Ryan Vincent.

The Crew

Directed by Joel Hammer, Scenic Design by Laura Carlson, Lighting Design by Rob Peck, Costume Design by Inda Blatch-Geib, Sound Design by Tom Linsenmeier, Prop design by Christine Woods, Technical Direction by David Tilk, Stage Managing by Megan Mingus and Assistant Stage Managing by Yesenia Real- Rivera.

Tickets are $26 regular, $24 senior for Fridays and Saturdays, $21 regular, $19 senior for Thursdays and Sundays. Preview tickets for December 5 are $10. Student tickets are $10 (full-time, under 25 with a valid ID). Tickets are available by calling the Dobama box office at (216) 932-3396, or by visiting

RUSH tickets, available to patrons 21 & younger, are $5. A limited quantity will be sold nightly no earlier than five minutes before curtain time and will be based on seat availability.

Remaining Dates and Times

Friday, December 27, 2013
8:00 p.m.

Saturday, December 28, 2013
8:00 p.m.

Sunday, December 29, 2013
2:30 p.m.

Thursday, January 2, 2013
7:30 p.m.

Friday, January 3, 2013
8:00 p.m.

Saturday, January 4, 2013
8:00 p.m.

Sunday, January 5, 2013
2:30 p.m.

Dobama Theatre is generously supported by many individual donors, and the following foundations and government agencies: The Cleveland Foundation, Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, The Cyrus Eaton Foundation, The George Gund Foundation, The Milton and Tamar Maltz Family Foundation, The Harry K. and Emma R. Fox Charitable Foundation, The David & Inez Myers Foundation, The Ohio Arts Council, and Roe Green Foundation. Dobama Theatre is generously funded by Cuyahoga County residents through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. The Ohio Arts Council helped fund this organization with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans.

Dobama Theatre’s mission is to premiere the best contemporary plays by established and emerging playwrights in professional productions of the highest quality. Through educational and outreach programming, Dobama Theatre nurtures the development of theatre artists and builds new audiences for the arts while provoking an examination of our contemporary world.


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