Sebastian Kearney & Ryan Watson in The Revision. Photo – Pandora Productions.
Pandora Productions presents Standing on Ceremony
With plays by Jordan Harrison, Wendy Macleod, Paul Rudnick, Doug Wright, Neil LaBute, Mo Gaffney, Moises Kaufman and Jose Rivera
Originally conceived by Brian Shnipper
Review by Brian Walker
Copyright 2013 by Brian Walker, all rights reserved.
Standing on Ceremony is a collection of short plays by renowned playwrights depicting stories inspired by the fight for equal marriage rights and a celebration of the gains the movement has already made. Mostly comical, all touching and honest, the evening, which was originally conceived by director Brian Shniper, is an easily accessible night of theatre about social politics that manages to entertain while offering a history of where the issue was when the plays were originally presented.
The Revision by Jordan Harrison opens the show, directed by Kathi E. B. Ellis and featuring Ryan Watson and Sebastian Kearney as a couple attempting to write their own wedding vows. It’s cute watching the two young men struggle to find a set of vows that would depict the honesty of their situation, and it offered a sobering view of the rights that still remain to be gained by gay people in our country. It gets the night off to a smart and adorable start.
This Flight Tonight by Wendy MacLeod was a “cold-feet” wedding story we’ve all seen with a straight couple. Cathy Butler-Weathersby and Jamie L. Shannon play lovers on their way to Iowa to get married. Though executed wel,l the script doesn’t offer stakes that seem very high and the story didn’t offer anything that I haven’t seen in the straight versions of the tale. But maybe that’s the point. Gay people are nervous about getting married just like straight people are. Look, we are all the same!
The Gay Agenda by Paul Rudnick was the first triumph of the evening. Paul Rudnick’s witty monologue about a woman addressing a “Focus on Family” convention to decry gay marriage is delivered with seething cuteness and rancid politeness by Meg Caudill. Director Ellis allows Caudill to have fun in the role without going over the edge into farce, and the result was wonderful and a total crowd pleaser.
On Facebook by Doug Wright was an interesting idea but my least favorite piece of the line-up. Mr. Wright provides an actual feed from his Facebook page about gay marriage, with names changed, featuring a debate on gay marriage between a few of his gay friends and a very feisty conservative girlfriend from high school. It’s the kind of feed that I vehemently do not read on my own Facebook wall and quickly delete when they occur on my own posts because I just don’t think they ever end well. People become rude and no one gets their mind changed arguing on Facebook, and the result here was the same. Though staged and choreographed perfectly by Amos Dreisbach and performed with a perfect pace and sense of comedic timing by its cast, it didn’t feel like a play to me and I shudder to think that this idea could have traction with other playwrights.
Strange Fruit by Neil LaBute was another highlight of the production, featuring Ryan Watson and Jason Cooper as a newlywed couple who recount their courtship and marriage and finally their tragedy. Mr. Dreisbach knows exactly when to turn his actors on a dime, and the results were chilling. Mr. Watson and Mr. Cooper had me crying by the end of this one with their honest and heartbreaking portrayal of these doomed men. I know that’s vague, but it’s intentional.
A Traditional Wedding by Mo Gaffney is about two women who speak directly to the audience recounting their wedding day and the hurdles they got over together to get to it. Meg Caudill and Jamie L. Shannon do credible work in the piece; their connection and attraction was palpable. It was executed with grace and prompted me to offer my partner a leg squeeze halfway through.
My Husband by Paul Rudnick shows us the Mother (Cathy Butler-Weathersby) and Son (Sebastian Kearney) “Why aren’t you married yet” story turned on its head. The piece is directed by Tim Kitchen for laughs, and it succeeds. It’s a little comic gem looking forward to the future of what gay marriage could look like one day to our parents, and I found it completely delightful.
London Mosquitoes by Moises Kaufman offers the most sublime moments of the night. Jason Cooper stands over his partner’s coffin and masterfully tells the story of their 46 years together. Again, I was reduced to a puddle of tears by the piece’s end from the smart storytelling and the honest delivery; it was easily my favorite piece of the lineup.
Pablo & Andrew at the Altar of Words by Jose Rivera seemed oddly placed to me. For me it was one of the weaker, more topical scripts and shouldn’t have been given the place of honor to close the show. I was partially still reeling from the previous piece, but this one didn’t connect with me. It was cute, and seeing a gay couple throw a bouquet is a lovely image to end with. I just thought the script was pretty thin.
Pandora scores a win with Standing on Ceremony. Allowing three directors to bring their own interpretations to the pieces was a smart idea, allowing different styles and sensibilities to guide the ensemble, which are all fantastic – not a weak link in the whole lot. The show already feels a little like a history, with many of the pieces focusing on the issues’ pre-Supreme Court decision this last summer; and I for one look forward to the very near future when this piece will look like The Boys in The Band looks to a gay audience today: a play focusing on a specific time in history that’s passed for something more progressive and fair.
Pandora Productions presents Standing On Ceremony
November 21, 22, 23 & 24
Pandora Productions at The Henry Clay Theatre
604 S. Third St.
Louisville, KY 40202