The Big Meal

Peter Jay Sharp Theater

Written by Dan LeFranc
Directed by Sam Gold

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

David Wilson Barnes
Griffin Birney
Tom Bloom
Anita Gillette
Jennifer Mudge
Rachel Resheff
Cameron Scoggins
Phoebe Strole
Molly Ward

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.


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Playwrights' Perspectives

Dan LeFranc on "The Big Meal"

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 Sanford and Dan LeFranc

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.


Tim Sanford on "The Big Meal"

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.


Backstory: Stage Time

"Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? -- every, every minute?" --Emily Webb, in Thornton Wilder's Our Town


The American Voice: Any Way, Shape, or Form

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 read—or even heard of, to be honest—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: