Somewhere in America, in a typical suburban restaurant on a typical night, Sam and Nicole meet. And sparks fly, setting in motion an expansive tale that traverses five generations of a modern family, from first kiss to final goodbye. A stunning, big-hearted play that spans nearly eighty years in a single sitting, The Big Meal tells the extraordinary story of an ordinary family
Scenic Designer & Costume Designer: David Zinn Lighting Designer: Mark Barton Production Stage Manager: Alaina Taylor
Photos of (1) David Wilson Barnes, Cameron Scoggins, Phoebe Strole, Jennifer Mudge, and Anita Gillette; (2) David Wilson Barnes and Jennifer Mudge; (3) Rachel Resheff and Griffin Birney; and (4) Cameron Scoggins, Tom Bloom, and Phoebe Strole by Joan Marcus.
A life-in-overdrive comic drama. Dan LeFranc’s snappy dialogue captures the tumultuous tenor of family gatherings. THE CAST IS SUPERB.
—Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
INTIMATE AND EXHILARATING. The expert ensemble make their merry-go-round of characters feel both universal and tenderly specific.
Perhaps because my parents both worked in the service industry, my most vivid memories of family take place around laminated menus and sampler platters. Like many Americans, we spent a lot of time going out to eat. I mean A LOT. So often, in fact, that many of these places came to feel like an extension of our living room. We laughed, cried, and fought like crazy for an audience of countless waiters and diners. My face still goes red at the thought of some of our more colorful performances, especially the ones that ended with our being asked to please leave the table. We were, suffice it to say, a very theatrical family.
Tim: So, what brought you to the theater?
Dan: I got into theater in middle school. I started doing comedy sketches and stuff like that. There was a talent show my friends and I did. It was the way I could be cool at school and meet girls.
My snap description of The Big Meal has been to call it a "post modernThe Dining Room." For those of you who have never seen or read this seminal 1981 play by A. R. Gurney, you need only know that the whole play takes place in a well appointed dining room where a cast of six assumes a variety of roles, all of which taken together depict the gradual slippage of American WASP culture. It's worth noting that whenThe Dining Room was first produced, several critics noted resemblances of that play to Thornton Wilder's The Long Christmas Dinner, in which a family holiday dinner gradually shifts to future generations over the course of the play. Undoubtedly, students of criticism could find comparisons of Wilder to even earlier writers. Now, ex-Comp Lit majors like me love to make literary comparisons: not to reduce the achievement of something new, but to deepen our understanding of something, to locate it on the larger continuum of artistic achievement, and most of all to help identify what is unique and surprising about the new work.
In the spring of 2008, Dan LeFranc sat staring at me in the offices of Playwrights Horizons, wild-eyed in disbelief that I had never readâ€”or even heard of, to be honestâ€”Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, the eye-opening analysis not just of comics, but of all art-making. Because reading this book was an insight to the evolution of Dan's consistently innovative work, and because he practically kicked me down the street to buy a copy, it seems wholly appropriate to start a look at Dan's playwriting by pointing to some of the key ideas that McCloud so eloquently presents in comic-strip form, such as: