Actors hard at work in final rehearsals for ‘The Big Meal.’

The idea behind live theatre is to bring forth a form of art that captivates an audience allowing them to escape the monotony of daily life and immerse them in a new story. A successful creation brings out any and all emotion with a desire to leave an audience with an experience that lasts and connects with them on any level they deem necessary. In the QC Theatre Workshop’s production of “The Big Meal”, written by Dan LeFranc, these qualities are prevalent in rare form, leaving the daunting task of turning thoughts and emotions into words.

The story itself leaves very little room for explanation without spoiling any of its wonderful twists and turns. In general, it illustrates the journey of life highlighting both the ugly and beautiful aspects; a rollercoaster of “80 years in 80 minutes.” This intricately written script brings forth the story of one particular couple, Nicole and Sam, taking the audience on the ride of a lifetime. Literally.

With the way this story plays out, each actor in the show takes on a wide variety of different characters, most of them taking turns at playing the same character at different ages, which lends its own nightmare to the task of casting. Director Mike Schulz took this challenge, and executed marvelously, bringing to the stage one of the most talented collective group of actors I have ever seen in the Quad Cities. Broken up into age categories, one female and one male for each, the actors pass around characters with such grace and fluidity, making this complex script very easy to follow.

Performing in the young woman/man age category, Abby Van Gerpen and Joshua Pride begin the show with a lighthearted display of Nicole and Sam first meeting. Throughout the show, Van Gerpen and Pride take on the task of portraying various characters spanning from teenagers to young adults; one of the more challenging ranges in the script. Their execution was flawless as they jumped, in merely a flicker of light, between the contrasting ages. Their stage chemistry led to countless laughs as their personalities butted heads for the majority of the show. The emotional range of these performers is one to be held in high regard as they morphed within seconds, almost in bi-polar fashion. One scene in particular, played out by Pride, literally felt like a rollercoaster taking that initial drop as he went from almost humorous sarcasm to gut wrenching agony.

Erin Churchill and Jordan McGinnis portray the adult woman and man. Their performances bring an overwhelming sense of reality to the production as at no point throughout the show did it feel like you were watching actors. Their overlapping lines, along with the rest of the cast, were executed seamlessly creating the feeling that you were sitting at the family dinner table along with them. Faced with some of the more devastating scenes, Churchill and McGinnis each delivered beautiful performances displaying the heartbreaking reality of loving and losing.

Bringing characters into the later stages of life are Angela Elliott and Michael Carron. The duo make for a delightful stage couple as their characters are generally very carefree and silly with one another. Carron’s performance is chock full of comedy and embarrassment as the Grandfather figure. Elliott brings one of the most memorable performances in the show as Nicole inches towards the final stages of her life. In prevention of spoiling a beautiful scene, I will simply describe it as a bone chilling experience not soon to be forgotten.

Brody Ford and Laila Haley portray the children of the story. In many moments throughout the show, their performances shine brightly against the light of a very talented veteran cast. Haley brings forth her own striking emotional range while Ford hilariously counters her step by step. These two performers show a great deal of promise and will without a doubt be showcasing their talents for many years to come. Sara Bolet brings the final piece to the cast as the waitress. Despite not having any lines throughout the show, her role in the show commands attention in an almost haunting way. The stone faced simplicity of the character creates a chilling vibe that nearly brings fear when she appears to deliver the cast their “meals”.

Schulz’ vision for the piece is refreshingly simplistic in its minimalist approach. The set is merely a few tables and chairs that shift to create different scenes and the show involves very few props with many of them being mimed by the actors. The omission of unnecessary pieces allows you to completely submerge yourself in the story rather than being distracted by the eye candy. The lighting design, done by Zach Meyer, is beautifully crafted to convey the idea of passing time in the blink of an eye.

“The Big Meal” kicks of the spring season of local theatre with a bang. It is surely not one to be missed, but take note that some of the colorful language in the show may not be appropriate for some audiences. With the meal lasting just two more weeks, make your reservations soon and grab your share of the feast.

‘The Big Meal’
7:30 p.m. March 11-12, 18-19; 3 p.m. March 13 and 20
Doors open a half hour before each performance, parental guidance is suggested
For reservations and more information, call (563)650­2396, e­mail, and visit  and

Aaron has been performing in various theatres in the Quad Cities for going on nine years now, and a theatre enthusiast for many more. In his spare time outside of shows, he works at the Rock Island Arsenal. Being able to combine his passion for theatre and love of writing in the form of reviews is truly a dream come true.