BWW Review: Jesse Tyler Ferguson As A Gay Man Facing His Own Privilege in Jordan Harrison's LOG CABIN
"We're all fully interested in navigating this brave new world with them," says an exasperated character in Jordan Harrison's comedy of social politics, Log Cabin, "but it sometimes seems like they want us to get it wrong... Like they're filling a quota of perceived transgressions."
Later on, another character concurs, "We're all so fucking afraid of being politically incorrect. Liberalism is a kind of mass conformity."
There are those who may advise such people to check their privilege, but the changing perception of exactly who holds what privilege is up for grabs here. And while nobody is suggested to be a Log Cabin Republican, every character is a member of at least one group marginalized by straight white male cis-gender society, and their issues involve factions among their own equal rights movements.
Spanning the years between 2012 and 2017, which brought America from the end of President Barack Obama's evolution into an acceptance of gay marriage rights to the start of the current administration, the playwright and director Pam MacKinnon do a fine job of mimicking the country's tone shift in the 90-minute piece with only the slightest reference to White House occupancy.
The play begins at the home of married couple Jules (short for Julia) (Dolly Wells) and Pam (Cindy Cheung) , who are enjoying a visit from the newly engaged Ezra (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Chris (Phillip James Brannon). It's soon noticeable that both thirtysomething couples consist of an outgoing white person and a more grounded person of color.
Ezra is in the middle of explaining how when he announced to his father that, after five years together, he and Chris are finally engaged ("We are not wacky roommates like from 'The Odd Couple.'"), his dad, a doctor, immediately recalled treating young men at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, despite believing it to be "retribution, for their behaviors."
And while everyone is shocked by the outdated attitude expressed, their own tolerance will soon be questioned.
Jules and Pam's plan to have a baby inspires Ezra and Chris to start considering the same, but in their case, the question of where to find a womb is an issue.
Enter Henry (Ian Harvie) and his twentysomething girlfriend Myna (Talene Monahon). In high school, Henry was Ezra's best friend Helen, and though he has taken hormones to change his outward appearance to conform to the way he feels inside, he has not had surgery to change his reproductive organs.
Would he be willing to halt taking his medication to act as a surrogate?
"I waited two years to look like this," Henry explains when Ezra brings up the subject. "Two years of crazy acne, and night sweats, and mood swings. And wanting to fuck everything that stands. Two years to walk into a men's room without getting a look."
Ezra is baffled at the suggestion that he's insensitive to the marginalized. "My whole life it's 'Smear the Queer' and getting slammed into lockers, and then I wake up and I'm Mr. Mainstream Privilege."
Populated by clever characters, and dipping its toe into absurdity a bit, Log Cabin is indeed very funny. Its banter occasionally overshadows the seriousness of its subject, but the play is sure to inspire some lively post-theatre debate.