Theatre & Opera Magazine

Theater Review: Standing on Ceremony

Posted on the 12 December 2011 by Starofdavida
Theater Review: Standing on CeremonyYesterday, I saw the Minetta Lane Theater show Standingon Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays. The show is made up of nine shortplays, all of which explore gay and lesbian relationships and marriage.
A Jewish mother desperate for herkinder to get married is at the heart of “My Husband,” written by Jewish ObieAward-winner Paul Rudnick. This play is a conversation between GabrielleFinkelstein and her son Michael after gay marriage was legalized in New York. Gabrielle isdesperate for her son to get married, mostly because she needs to compete with otherliberal Jewish Democrat parents whose gay children have gotten married. I wasclutching my sides from laughter during this play, partially because I actuallyknow a Jewish mother who felt this away about her gay son.
I find it amusing that The NewYork Times’ review of “My Husband” completely didn’t understand it,describing it only as “a clever spoof of the collective rush to the altar andthe competitive streak it can bring out in both the participants and their relatives.”The review doesn’t even use the word “Jewish” anywhere, and certainly doesn’tacknowledge the unique relationship between a Jewish mother and her childrenanywhere. Can only Jews understand this kind of thing?
“London Mosquitoes,” penned by JewishTony Award-nominated director Moises Kaufman, is a monolog from the point ofview of a widower eulogizing his deceased lover. Joe begins the play bymentioning a rabbi, and ends it off by beginning the Mourners’ Kaddish (theprayer service for the dead), “yisgadal v’yiskadash shemai rabbah b’alma div’ra…” (The text of the Kaddish actually has nothing to do withdeath; rather, it praises God, showing the speaker’s belief in the Holy Oneeven at times of great emotional distress. The line Joe says means “magnified andsanctified be God’s great name in this world which God has created.”) I don’tknow if I’m reading too far into it, but I interpret the fact that “LondonMosquitoes” mentions Judaism at the beginning and the end shows that if aperson is born a Jew, he or she will die a Jew, too; it doesn’t matter whetherhe or she is straight or gay.
Two of the plays focused onlesbian couples. “Traditional Wedding,” written by comedian Mo Gaffney, is adialogue between long-married lesbians happily reminiscing about their wedding.Because they didn’t want to use the terminology “bride” or “groom,” theydecided on “broom” instead, even decorating the top of their cake with twobrooms. This play was very bittersweet: Liz, one of the women, describes howher father kicked her out when he found out she was gay and then wouldn’t cometo the wedding, while her partner’s former Marine father attended with tears ofjoy in his eyes. I appreciated how this play really depicts reality, even ifit’s sometimes not the reality we would like to face.
“This Flight Tonight,” byplaywright Wendy MacLeod, is a conversation between two lesbians who have tofly to Iowa from California in order to get married legally. Whilethe couple bickers and disagrees, almost deciding not to board the plane to Des Moines after all, atthe end they realize that marrying in the eyes of the law is worth the effort.This play really showcases the stupidity of the fact that marriage is a stateissue. It reminds me of the women’s suffrage battle, where suffragist AlicePaul butted heads with major suffragists because they wanted to pursue theright to vote on a state-by-state basis, while she thought it would be moreeffective to lobby for a constitutional amendment. Her idea was the one thatworked at the end, resulting in the Nineteenth Amendment guaranteeing women theright to vote. I really think it would be extremely valuable for the gaycommunity to learn from the women’s rights movement in this way, and possiblyfocus more effort on getting federal laws protecting marriage equality.
All in all, I greatly enjoyed Standingon Ceremony and would definitely recommend it. Get your tickets fast - itcloses on December 18! Part of all proceeds is donated to Freedom to Marry, as well as otherorganizations dedicated to gay marriage. When you buy tickets, you’re not onlyguaranteeing yourself a good time, but helping gay rights!

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