Hawkeye Community Theatre serves up ‘The Big Meal’

Hawkeye Community Theatre welcomes theater-goers to “The Big Meal” at 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, with an additional showing at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Tickets are $10 and can be bought at the door or on the Hawkeye Community Theatre website.

Directed by Alyssa Sparks, this story is set in a typical restaurant, in an average town, with a completely run-of-the-mill family.

The show opens with Nicole performing side-work at the restaurant at which she is employed, while Sam openly wonders if he is in her way. As sparks fly between the two young lovebirds, Nicole makes it clear that their “relationship” is temporary; nothing permanent will come from their time together. As they begin to casually date and talk about never ever having kids, Nicole seems to change her mind a bit about the permanency of the relationship and calls it quits when she feels that Sam may not be on the same page.

Fast forward a few years and Sam and Nicole have a chance meeting in another restaurant. One thing leads to another, which then leads to getting married. Fast forward again, and Sam and Nicole start having children of their own. Jump ahead once more and their children, Robbie and Maddie, are having their own children, who then have children of their own.

”The Big Meal” tells an extraordinary story of this ordinary family spanning five generations, from first kiss to final goodbye.

As the family grows, so do the pains associated with having children and growing older. The story takes the audience through the roller coaster that is real life.

“One of the ideas that drew me to this show,” said Sparks, “is that the script is so much different than any other script I’ve ever read. The entire show is written so that the characters all talk over each other like they would at a real family dinner. The show’s playwright, Dan LeFranc, wrote the script in columns with the characters’ dialogue overlapping throughout the entire show.”

This has been very challenging for director and cast alike, as many of them have been in multiple shows. Wrapping their heads around a new form of dialogue was initially a struggle, but they quickly learned and perfected their timing so that the story can be understood.

The show also shifts forward in time often to accommodate the aging and growing family.

“The shifts are subtle,” Sparks said. “The shifts aren’t meant to end a scene with a blackout and complete mood change, but rather to continue the scene forward in another time period with the same characters having aged a bit in the process.”

Creating a subtle way to notify the audience that there has been a time shift was challenging for Sparks. In many shows, a shift in time occurs when a scene ends and there is a blackout to prepare for the next scene. Sparks will rely on small changes in lighting to signify each time shift. Because the actors in ”The Big Meal” are on stage much of the show, there are no blackouts and no time off stage to change costumes or review the script. Most of the physical changes in the actors as they transition from one character to another are on stage, right in front of the audience.

Each actor in the show plays multiple characters.

Jordan Martin and AnnaLisa Wolf start out as Sam and Nicole, but those roles are passed on to Dynastacius Collins and Esther Laupp and then passed off again to Rex Daisy and MaryJo Laupp. The entire cast transitions into new characters multiple times throughout the show. There are small touches that the actors have put into their characters so that the audience will be able to identify their new role.

”The Big Meal” was written with strong language, so the cast has taken it a step further and will be performing the original as written for all but one performance. The cast will perform a clean version of the show with calmer language for those that may wish to avoid some of the language in the original version.

“While I am normally the type of director that prefers to perform and direct a show as it was intended by the playwright,” said Sparks, “the story is amazing and we wanted families to be able to share in the show as well. With some of the strong language, we felt that some families might not come altogether and we understand that. We want to make sure that everyone can enjoy the show.”

The matinee on Saturday will be the “clean” version of the show.

The cast of the show includes: Mary Jo Laupp (Woman 1), Esther Laupp (Woman 2), AnnaLisa Wolf (Woman 3), Rex Daisy (Man 1), Dynastacius Collins (Man 2), Jordan Martin (Man 3), and Jess Barkhaus as the server/stage manager.

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