Gay Marriage Is Funny: Standing on Ceremony Review

Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays.Minetta Lane Theatre..One couple decides to call each other brooms, a combination of groom and bride, and even orders a wedding cake with two little brooms on top. When it comes to same-sex marriage, you can’t be standing on ceremony.

“Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays” is an uneven but often hilarious and occasionally touching evening of theater that has now opened at the Minetta Lane. Like its subject, it breaks with tradition — in this case theatrical tradition — even while celebrating it. Although an official Off-Broadway play with an open run, it has the feel of a one-night-only, star-studded fund-raising event. Six well-known actors, reading scripts from music stands, present short plays written by nine celebrated playwrights. There is the mere suggestion of a set — two gigantic gold wedding rings with a plastic disco material flowing out of them, and glittering clear plastic chairs set up as if at a wedding.

This is indeed a fundraiser: A portion of ticket sales will be contributed to Freedom to Marry and other organizations advocating marriage equality. (Same-sex marriage is currently legally allowed in New York and five other states, Washington D.C. and a couple of Indian tribes in Oregon and Washington. Most states not only ban same-sex marriage, but have embedded the ban in their constitutions.)

Supporters of marriage equality might attend “Standing on Ceremony” to show solidarity and feel as if they are contributing to the cause. But they will surely leave feeling entertained.

Paul Rudnick is in fine form with two entries, both featuring the exquisite comic actress Harriet Harris (Tony-winner of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” recent star of the Urinetown team’s new Fringe musical, “Yeast Nation.”) In the first, “The Gay Agenda,” Harris plays a conservative opponent of gay marriage, who begins politely, starts to rant, and has something of a nervous collapse, feeling surrounded. “Gay people are everywhere. Almost every TV show…Any morning show with a weatherman… And in all of those romantic comedies with Sarah Jessica Parker and Katherine Heigl and Natalie Portman, they all have a sassy gay best friend! They’re taking jobs away from black women!”

In Rudnick’s “My Husband,” Harris is now a New York mother feeling left behind because her gay son has no partner so that she can have a splashy wedding for him.

The most poignant play of the evening, “London Mosquitoes” by Moises Kaufman, features Richard Thomas playing a man giving the eulogy for his partner Paul, who had refused to get married when it became legal to do so. “If we married now,” Paul told him, “we’d be having our one year anniversary next year. What would that say about the last 45 years? That we were just messing around?”

“This Flight Tonight” by Wendy MacLeod is both amusing and affecting as Polly Draper and Beth Leavel wait for their flight to leave Los Angeles for Iowa, where same-sex marriage is legal while in California it is not, both of them ambivalent.

In Jordan Harrison’s “The Revision,” Craig Bierko and Thomas play a couple writing their wedding vows to reflect the reality of their circumstance: They change “lawfully wedded husband,” for example, to “lawfully civil-unioned or domestic-partnered partner” to increasingly humorous effect.

Doug Wright’s “On Facebook,” which involves the entire cast, claims to be a nearly verbatim record of an argument over gay marriage among strangers on Facebook, with only the names changed. The main hold on our attention here is the adaptation to the stage of the conventions of Facebook. At one point, three people stick their thumbs in the air and chant “three people like this.”

There are several misfires in “Standing on Ceremony,” among them Neil LaBute’s “Strange Fruit,” whose title is the same as the Billie Holliday song about a lynching and echoes her theme, but isn’t set up in a way that knocks us out the way it should. The duds are short enough so that they don’t detract from the overall effect, and even they have worthwhile moments: The line about the brooms comes from Mo Gaffney’s “Traditional Wedding.”

Each performance of “Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays” is a selection of the plays, omitting one or two of them. The producers promise to be adding plays – and presumably also subtracting – as the run progresses, to reflect developments in an issue that itself promises to have a long run.

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Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays
Minetta Lane Theater
Conceived by Brian Shnipper
Written by Mo Gaffney, Jordan Harrison, Moisés Kaufman, Neil LaBute, Wendy MacLeod, José Rivera, Paul Rudnick and Doug Wright,
Directed by Stuart Ross
Set design by Sarah Zeitler, lighting design by Josh Starr, costume consultant Frank Torre
Cast: Craig Bierko, Mark Consuelos, Polly Draper, Harriet Harris, Beth Leavel and Richard Thomas

Jonathan Mandell, who tweets as New York Theater, is a native New Yorker and third-generation journalist with diverse experience on newspapers, magazines and websites.He has written for a wide varie ...read more

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