A series of self-revelations opens the book of life on the characters, drawing their view of life. From here we watch them interact: Omar throws knives for a living and muses about the state of the world. His understanding wife, Fifi, suddenly pregnant with twins, acts as a rudder for him, and often for his friend, Austin, an out of work actor, who believes the world would be a better place if everyone would do something, even one small act of kindness. He follows his own advice when he comes upon Jill, a young woman sitting in a bar, covered with grease. Jill had been attracted to Gregory, but on their first date, he berates her and covers her with petroleum jelly. When Austin finds her, he must break through her distrust of strangers and persuade her to let him clean her as an act of mercy. He succeeds and gives her a wonderful bubble bath, the cleansing becoming a metaphor for the play: that the big funk engulfing society will dissipate only if everyone will join in the purification process. A dinner party later reveals the zany and deep way in which the characters try to make things better, despite their obstacles and even their triumphs. The play's theme is summed up by Austin, addressing the world in a very unique way, asking us all to chose love and life over neurosis and death.
A riveting and compelling look at the "big funk" that is the modern condition and the power of compassion and faith in others to triumph over it. "Shanley—as we recall from his plays and his screenplay for Moonstruck —can write beautifully crafted scenes, exquisite in the pride of their truth. And he does here." —NY Post. "…Shanley is a gifted humorist." —Variety. "…a uniquely funny, provocative evening of theatre." —USA Today. "THE BIG FUNK takes all sorts of changes in technique, drawing on classical theatre for its set, costumes and use of choral address while simultaneously mining absurdism for its bizarre, funny plot twists and Pirandellian shufflings of on-and-off-stage realities." —NY Times.