It's fascinating to watch the same cast playing completely different roles in a pair of shows back-to-back. We had that chance with the graduating class of George Brown Theatre School , whose double bill of Charles L. Mee 's Big Love and Lanford Wilson 's The Hot L Baltimore closed last weekend.
Daryl Cloran gave Big Love, the more plot-driven show, some nice directorial touches. The script is adapted from a classical Greek play in which 50 sisters flee from an enforced marriage to their 50 cousins. Yes, you read right.
Cloran wasn't afraid to go for large emotions and acting in this play dealing with variations on love, and the company threw themselves - in some cases literally - into the work.
Standouts in the cast were Kristan Hendriks as Olympia, the most submissive and malleable of the sisters, swayed by whoever spoke to her last, and Jennifer Harding as her gutsy, Medusa-haired sib Thyona, a woman who has no need for men and nurses murder in her heart.
Taking a viewpoint between the extremes of the other two is Bridget Norris 's Lydia, whose relationship with Nikos ( Jamie Spilchuk ) grows from friendship to passion.
Todd Hammond directed the Wilson work, an ensemble piece that emphasized character work by the cast of 13. Set in a rundown hotel about to be torn down, it ends on a depressing note and is the flip side of Grand Hotel; everyone here is in some way on the skids.
By the end of the play, the company created a sense of an extended dysfunctional family, several of whose members care about the fate of others. Still, some of the character work was sketched in rather than filled out.
Among the memorable performances were those by Hendricks as a brassy, insecure prostitute and Harding as a shy, retired restaurant server who listens unobtrusively to everyone else's conversations; both women's work was a strong contrast to that in Big Love.
Denise Pinnock was attention-grabbing as a demanding, extrovert prostitute with a big heart, and Ryder Britton won sympathy as the beaten-down, needy brother of a desperate woman ( Perrie Olthuis ) who plans to make it big out west.