Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays

  • Our critic's rating:
    November 1, 2011

    (Review by Tulis McCall)

    Bravo, Bravo! There is so much right with this production, including the fact that it is the men’s room that has a waiting line that I hardly know where to begin.

    I guess I could start with the set by Sarah Seitler, which is a grand swoop of glistening material capped in the upper right corner by two enormous gold wedding bands. There is an altar of sorts with two crystal bouquets and a gaggle of clear plastic chairs that pick up the light. The effect is all satin and crystal and way over the top in the best way.

    This collection of short plays and monologues celebrate gay love and lament the political state of affairs in which love is still being legislated. In The Revision, Wallace (Richard Thomas) and Nate (Craig Bierko) struggle with marriage vows. Because theirs is not a legal wedding they decide to replace “lawfully wedded husband” with “Lawfully civil-unioned or domestic partnered” and proceed to nitpick their way through the rest so that they reflect the reality rather than the desired condition. In the end, about all they leave untouched is, “I do.”

    In This Flight Tonight Hannah (Polly Draper) and Allie (Beth Leavel) are returning to Iowa, Polly’s home state, to get married because they cannot do it legally in California. Allie is filled with jitters and resentment that she cannot have her ceremony on the beach the way she wanted to. Hannah is annoyed that, after all this time together Allie is doing her own version of standing on ceremony.

    The Gay Agenda by Paul Rudnick with Harriet Harris, we meet Mary Abigail Carstairs-Sweetbuckle, a homemaker wound tighter than Big Ben, who is a member of every right wing organization to protect family matters limited to Christians, heterosexuals and Aryans. Over the course of her speech, in which she warns us of The Gay Agenda, we watch Mary Abigail slowly spin out of control and twirl herself right into the ground. This is the evening’s most hilarious pieces, and as written by Rudnick, it is satire of the high order delivered flawlessly by Ms. Harris. Consideration ought to be given to moving this toward the end of the evening.

    In The London Mosquitoes by Moisés Kaufman, Joe (Thomas) gives a thoughtful, self-effacing eulogy for his partner, Paul, with whom he shared 46 years. In the moment that anchors the double edge of this production Joe tells us that when marriage became legal he asked Paul to marry him. Paul’s reply? “If we married now, we’d be having our one year anniversary next year. What would that say about the last forty-five years? That we were just messing around? Messing around for all that time?” He said, “I stopped messing around with you the night I kissed you! NO! We can’t erase history that way!“

    A point I never considered before. And I am in the choir on this matter. What does that tell you?

    While the evening works beautifully as a whole, the writing is not all of the same quality. And, not to make too fine a point of if, of course, but of the six white authors, five are men. Are we talking qualified equality? The press release tells us that there are six other plays that will be introduced as well (the line up of plays and actors are subject to change), and four of these authors are women. Still is would have been good to see an even representation from the start. It called to mind the line by the very funny Polly Draper in On Facebook by Doug Wright: “How come in threads like these, lesbians are always under-represented?” Hmnnnnnn….

    Because the writing is a bit off balance, the actors don’t all have the same chance to strut their stuff, but each one takes center stage with style and grace. And one of the repeated pleasures is to watch them watching each other. When they are not reading in a piece each person is a study in active listening. These are generous performers, and being in the same theatre with them as they perform work about human rights is an honor.

    Now all they need to do is use resume shots that are less than 10 years old….

    (Tulis McCall)

    "Mostly genial, often funny."
    Charles Isherwood for New York Times

    "Balancing comedy with well-placed notes of melancholy, regret and longing."
    Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

    "Puts a human face on a hot-button issue and delivers laughter and tears rather than propaganda."
    David Sheward for Back Stage

    "While a distinct preaching-to-the-choir feeling inflects this worthy aggregation – you can bet that Rick Santorum ain’t ever gonna see ‘em – the plays are at least agreeable, and in most cases, considerably better than that."
    Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey

    "A feel-good show celebrating gay marriage."
    Marilyn Stasio for Variety

    External links to full reviews from popular press...

    New York Times - New York Post - Back Stage - Newsroom Jersey - Variety