We saw the Playwright’s Horizons new play, The Big Meal last night and under normal circumstances I probably wouldn’t have bothered writing a review. It was an interesting but flawed examination of the dynamics in an extended family through several generations and how they deal with each other through the major markers in our lives – childhood, love, marriage (sometimes successful) and death – most of which revolved around family meals. Family relationships were strained and playwright Dan LeFranc does not paint a pretty picture. In an Ingmar Bergmanesque touch, the Big Meal is Death and periodically and unexpectedly as the rest of the cast assume a frozen pose, one by one the characters are served and consume their last supper. Fade to black.
But the circumstances are anything but normal. We were to share the evening with our friends Jack and Mary but really could not focus on the action on stage. As we tried to watch the play, their seats beside us were vacant last night as a somber and ever-present reminder. In a moment so much more poignant and gut wrenching than anything we saw on stage, Jack died suddenly earlier in the week. He was a healthy, much too young 62 years but succumbed to a brain aneurism, literally and figuratively out of the blue as he stepped onto his deck after pouring a cup of coffee to enjoy the beautiful early spring day.
I can still feel the racing of my heart and utter disbelief as I listened to the news relayed by our friend Lorraine who accompanied Mary to the hospital. We’re all still in shock. I can still hear Jack’s distinctive and warm voice talking the night before he died about how he could not bring himself to finish The Lost Wife, the subject of discussion at our book group pot luck dinner. Jack found the telling of the horror, senseless atrocities and loss at Terezin and Auschwitz too much to bear. Little did we know we’d soon lose our dear friend to a natural but equally senseless circumstance. Jack’s last big meal that night included seafood stew – for the avid fisherman, captain of the family boat the Aunt Chovy, lover of all things seafood, and accomplished Gyotaku fish painting artist, nothing could be more appropriate. Fade to black.