Theater Review – Standing On Ceremony – the Gay Marriage Plays
The Broward Center For The Performing Arts – 06/22/12
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) marriage, any marriage, is a controversial issue. Given the long distance married couples must run to be successfully happy together, and the innumerable obstacles faced by those who attempt to run this race hand-in-hand, anyone rolling the dice of happiness on til-death-do-us-part is entering into risky business. So it’s not surprising that when one talks about LGBT marriage, the challenges for these disenfranchised couples are remarkably similar, if not the same as those for heterosexuals.
As a gay man, a straight person might wrongly presume that if I got married, my biggest concerns would be where to hang our his-and-his slings, or just how many extra-marital boyfriends does a healthy monogamous relationship include. But the truth is that sex, any sex, is such a small part of both a balanced relationship and fulfilling marriage, that gender expression is neither more nor less important than such things as career plans, household chores, socializing, family, friends, and an ad-infinitum list of other pieces which create the wedlock mosaic recipe. So it was stunningly evident throughout each of the nine vignettes presented in “Standing On Ceremony – the Gay Marriage Plays,” that what was most shocking about a LGBT marriage, any LGBT marriage, was what was not shocking about it. In other words, whenever two people get married, any two people, it’s always about the same things: love, what is gained, and what is lost.
This evening of plays within a play opened with Jordan Harrison’s “The Revision,” where we witnessed two men writing their nuptial vows together. The humor here was based upon the secular translations they employed to update the standard, century old verses into more timely and relevant phrases which reflected their present day circumstances. And so, the old-fashioned reference to “richer or poorer” became citations to the current federal tax code, and “in sickness or in health” was replaced by the written terms of their individual health plans. On the surface, this made for a very funny and captivating opening. Yet, in the end, when they read their final version of modernized promises, it still, at heart said the same old thing: I love you, I want to be with you, and I want us to be happy together, forever.
The next piece, Wendy Macleod’s “This Flight Tonight,” presented two women about to fly into middle American for their wedding in Iowa amidst family and friends. Just as the plane is about to board, one of them is having second thoughts as a thousand maybes enter her head and flow from her mouth. Maybe a traditional Midwest wedding isn’t a good thing. Maybe they should have a non-traditional wedding. Maybe they shouldn’t get married at all. Maybe they’re really more interested in other people than one another… maybe, Maybe, MAYBE. So, yes, cold feet can happen to someone, any someone, regardless of their gender or that of the person they’re about to marry. And happily, in this case, memories of warm foot rubs overcame the many maybes that stood between these two women and their long awaited walk down the aisle, together.
The remaining seven acts were each an individual study into the bedrock commonalities which underlie our perceived, superficial differences. From Paul Rudnick’s “The Gay Agenda” where a homo-phobic housewife unwittingly and publicly ridicules herself in an attempt to indict the love that dare not speak its name, to Neil LaBute’s “Strange Fruit” in which an ostensibly over-sexualized couple find their unlikely, monogamous bliss shattered when one of them is fatally fag-bashed, it’s the genderless aspect of these relationships which always takes center stage: the joy, the pain, and the love of finding your other.
For myself, I found the most touching piece of the night to be Moises Kaufman’s “London Mosquitos.” Staged at a funeral, it is one man’s oratory tribute to his decades-long lover who he has just lost to cancer. Metaphorically based upon mosquitos who were trapped underground in the London subway and evolved into a separate species while separated from their above-ground brethren, we are carried through the evolution of these two men as they fall in love and learn to live together in a world that would rather bury them and their relationship. But what’s so unique about this? Aren’t there controversial marriages within the hetero world also, like those between blacks and whites, christians and jews, or even older woman and younger men? So yes, while this particular marriage-de-facto was between two men, it could have easily been about a whole host of straight couples, too, any straight couple.
In all, “Standing On Ceremony” was a well planned and well performed evening of thought provoking and entertaining glimpses into how different we may seem on the surface, but how similar we all really are at heart. So if you ever get the chance to stand in a voting booth and have to decide whether two people, any two people, have the right to be happy together, don’t stand on ceremony. Just do the right thing and then see this play, again.