Theater Chat: The Big Bang

By Hannah Lee

Theater critics should add caveats to their reviews.  After reading the rave reviews in the Inquirer and the Main Line Times, I booked tickets for The Big Bang for my family.  Judging from the number of young children in attendance for a comedy that deserves an R rating, I know that other parents were mislead by the praise for a zany, frenetic romp through history.

More after the jump.
A two-man tour de force played by local thespians, Tony Braithwaite and Ben Dibble with piano accompaniment by Sonny Leo, The Big Bang skewers historical icons from Adam and Eve to Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella to Eva Braun.  They’re equal-opportunity offenders, but the lyrics seem to tilt heavily towards Jewish inflections and phraseology, even in historical skits that do not involve Jews, such as Pocahontas and Minnehaha griping about their poor line-up of prospective mates, including Chief Sitting Shivah.  The name of the lyricist sounds WASPy — Boyd Graham — but my friend and companion, Susie, suspects that he may have a Jewish ancestor.  The composer, Jed Feuer, is the son of the prominent director and producer, Cy Feuer.

More than the frenetic lyrics which forced us audience members to strain to catch every line (with a joke in each), my friend and I were enthralled by the clever use of props put to use for each skit.  So, file these ideas for next Purim: an inverted lampshade as a headdress for Queen Nefertiti; a T-shirt worn backwards on the head as Egyptian head gear; a small pillowcase as Columbus’ floppy hat; fancy colanders as helmets; and two open umbrellas as hoop supports for a Southern belle’s gown (this I have yet to try at home).  There were no credits given for the costume or props designer, but that creative individual deserves an ovation.

The Big Bang made its theatrical debut at the Douglas Fairbanks Theatre in New York City in 2000 and it had previously played in Philadelphia in 2005 at the Kimmel Center and three years later, at Ambler’s Act II Playhouse.  I’ve read that it’s been slightly updated to include current references, but most of the script has been left alone.  The conceit of a show within a show includes a solicitation for audience members, who are supposedly members of a backers’ audition for a $83.5-million proposed production of a 12-hour musical (longer than a Wagner production!), to contribute to the show at, which is actually the website for ticket sales.

The Big Bang continues its local run at the Kimmel Center’s Innovation Studio in Philadelphia through October 30th.