BWW Reviews: STANDING ON CEREMONY; THE GAY MARRIAGE PLAYS at Cleveland Public Theatre
Funny, poignant, eye opening GAY MARRIAGE PLAYS at Cleveland Public Theatre
(Member, American Theatre Critics Association & Cleveland Critics Circle)
Every era has its controversies. Since theatre represents the era from which it comes, here in the United States, attitudes about the women's movement were presented by feminist plays. The Black movement found African American writers sending forth their messages. Today, with the Gay rights movement in full swing, it is only logical that some of that community's issues reach the forefront.
Same sex marriage, except in Islamic countries and the United States, is not a major issue. Same sex marriages are legal in eleven countries (Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina and Denmark). In addition it is legally recognized in Israel, Aruba, Curacao, Saint Maarten, Mexico and Brazil. New Zealand passed legislature approving same sex marriage in August.
STANDING ON CEREMONY: THE GAY MARRIAGE PLAYS, started in 2011 in Los Angeles as a series of fund raising events, when the issue of same sex marriage was in the news in an on-again, off-again legal fight for legalization in California. Money from the stagings was donated to marriage equality organizations.
The 90-minute play, as conceived by Brain Shnipper, is not an attempt to provide a balanced viewpoint on the issue, but is a celebratory look at gay marriage, complete with its humorous, touching, and controversial issues.
In LA and New York, it was presented as a staged reading with a rotating cast of celebrities taking the roles on any given night reading parts while standing behind podiums. At Cleveland Public Theatre, where the show is presently running, there is a set cast and the scenes are acted out, with memorized lines, costumes, a set, and clever staging.
The script, which consists of nine playlets, is the work of writers whose accolades include the nominations and/or receipt of Pulitzer Prizes, Obies, Emmys, and Tonys. Each presents his/her unique take on before, after and during the "I do."
The first act consists of:
•THE REVISION Jordan Harrison's amusing look at how two men go about writing their wedding vows to reflect the limited options available to a gay couple.
•THIS FLIGHT TONIGHT Wendy MacLeod asks if there can be any hope for happiness when a lesbian couple travels to Iowa to take their vows.
•THE GAY AGENDA Paul Rudnicks' sad, yet hilarious appeal for restricting marriage to that between a man and a woman by an Ohio homemaker, who is a member of the extreme right wing religiously conservative, Focus on the Family.
•ON FACEBOOK Doug Wright takes on social media by following an actual Facebook thread chronicling a discussion on the subject of gay marriage, which starts out innocently and ends up as an all-out assault.
•STRANGE FRUIT Neil LaBute's story of two women who want to get married in the "old fashioned way," but are frustrated by reality.
The second act centers on:
•A TRADITIONAL WEDDING Mo Gaffney gives a glimpse of a long "married" lesbian couple reminiscing about their "wedding."
•MY HUSBAND Paul Rudnick gives a delightful glimpse into the machinations of an ultra liberal Jewish mother who is desperate to find a husband for her gay son.
•LONDON MOSQUITOES Moisés Kaufman's poignant story of a man who, at his husband's funeral, tries to make sense of the loss.
•PABLO AND ANDRE AT THE ALTAR OF WORDS José Rivera's snapshot of two men who use their wedding vows to say the things that people never really say to each other.
The CPT production under the creative and focused eye of Craig J. George, wrings out almost all of the humor and pathos of each of the scenes. The scenes are melded together by creative choreography.
Highlight segments are: MaryAnn Elder's sincere, but hysterically funny attempt to make the audience understand the conservative view against same sex marriage. Elder also excels as the Jewish mother in her attempt to find a husband for her Jewish son because, "what will my friend's think if you aren't married?" She is equally balanced in that playlet by Michael Silverstein as her son. Dana Hart induces high pitched sadness in LONDON MOSQUITOES, as the husband left to grieve his husband. Beth Wood is properly hyper-hysterical over the thought of gay life in IOWA in THIS FLIGHT TONIGHT.
The final segment is the weakest, having a feeling of being tacked on. It doesn't have the same writing quality or dramatic impact as the rest of the pieces.
Capsule judgement: STANDING ON CEREMONY; THE GAY MARRIAGE PLAYS is a must see production for anyone who has empathy toward the same sex marriage movement. It should be required seeing for conservatives who don't understand why there is a need for a "gay agenda."
STANDING ON CEREMONY: THE GAY MARRIAGE PLAYS runs though October 20. For tickets call 216-631-2727 or go on line to www.cptonline.org.