Gay Marriage and the Theatre: Standing on Ceremony Offers Laughter and Tears

Special Features   Gay Marriage and the Theatre: Standing on Ceremony Offers Laughter and Tears
 
Standing on Ceremony's panoply of talent tackles marriage equality in a collection of short plays.

Harriet Harris and Craig Bierko
Harriet Harris and Craig Bierko Photo by Joan Marcus

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Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays, a bouquet of one acts, playlets and vignettes on same-sex marriage, has been flung from one coast to the other — from Los Angeles, where it was born as a series of benefits to protest the passage of Proposition 8, which prohibits gay marriage, to New York, where it's being used to celebrate that newly legislated right with a run at the Minetta Lane Theatre (it closes Dec. 18).

There is much to say, pro and con, on the matter, so new plays may be added to the mix as it goes along, and a rotating cast of players will be brought in (à la Love, Loss, and What I Wore at the Westside Theatre) to keep it in a perpetual spin.

The starting team of players included Craig Bierko, Mark Consuelos, Polly Draper, Harriet Harris, Beth Leavel and Richard Thomas, performing the mini-works of Mo Gaffney, Jordan Harrison, Jeffrey Hatcher, Moisés Kaufman, Neil LaBute, Wendy MacLeod, Jose Rivera, Paul Rudnick and Doug Wright. As in L.A., a portion of all ticket sales goes to Freedom to Marry and other organizations promoting marriage equality.

Doug Wright, a Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner for I Am My Own Wife, made it just under the wire before Proposition 8 passed and wed singer–songwriter David Clement in a simple ceremony in Santa Monica, with their parents in attendance.

Doug Wright
photo by Monica Simoes

California, he pointed out, "did not invalidate the 8,000 marriages that happened [before Proposition 8], but it's a remarkably perverse thing, as you travel across the country, to have to check state-by-state to see if, in fact, you are still married."

Wright's contribution to the evening — On Facebook — adheres to his modus operandi. He plucked clean much of the actual spoken dialogue in the documentary Grey Gardens for his musical book of the same (and he's doing it again to Hands on a Hard Body, which musically lifts off in the spring at La Jolla Playhouse).

"I may be the detritus of history," he quips. "When they asked me to do this, I immediately thought of a Facebook thread I had the bad judgment to get involved in about two years ago where a number of people — some in favor of gay marriage and some very much opposed — were tackling the issue behind the safety of their computer screens. I think, when we're talking online, sometimes we're far more candid and explosive than we are in person. People say the most outrageous things, so my play is six strangers in front of their computers opining about gay marriage."

No, London Mosquitoes, in the Moisés Kaufman play by that name, are not gay mosquitoes. "They are," he explains patiently, "mosquitoes who evolved into a new species when trapped underground in the London subway a hundred years ago. My play is about a 70-year-old man delivering a eulogy for his lover of 50 years. The question he poses is: If you've been with somebody that long and, suddenly, people start asking if you're going to get married just because you now can, what does that say for all those 50 years? What were you doing then? You were just boyfriends?"

Paul Rudnick
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Paul Rudnick says he and his partner of 18 years are not hurtling toward the altar, and therein hangs his contribution to the bunch, My Husband. "The first time we did a collection of these plays was a year ago, before gay marriage was legal, so it's wonderful to be able to take advantage of actual social progress and write a play that reflected this big change in New York life. What I love is, once you legalize gay marriage, you've got this whole new set of social pressures as well. Suddenly, everyone's mom wants her son to get married. They want a wedding and they want a buffet and they want a flower garden — and you have to figure out, 'Oh, my God! Are we ready for that?' We're all ready for the option. Are we ready for the reality?" The Gay Agenda is a Rudnick double-dip — written, he says, in "response to people like Mikey [sic] Gallagher and figures on the far right who tend to spew prejudice. They talk about how gay people are the work of Satan and how gay marriage will destroy the fabric of the American family, and they always end their diatribes by insisting 'I don't hate anyone.' I always loved that contradiction. It seemed, simultaneously, insane and hilarious so I wanted to, in a strange way, portray someone like that sympathetically to see where does that irrational fear of gay marriage come from. Why would a person falling in love and getting married be so terrifying to another person? So the play is a woman explaining that to people, and it's thrilling to watch someone the caliber of Harriet Harris just letting it rip."

Harris, who's Jackhammer Mom in Rudnick's other play, fielded all the female roles (eight or nine) in Rudnick's Jeffrey at the Minetta Lane. "I do feel like I'm returning home," she admits. "There were a lot of great nights in this theatre with Paul."

Harriet Harris, Beth Leavel, Mark Consuelos, Craig Bierko, Polly Draper and Richard Thomas
Harriet Harris, Beth Leavel, Mark Consuelos, Craig Bierko, Polly Draper and Richard Thomas Photo by Joan Marcus
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