As wedding festivities go, Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays is a low-key affair. The stage at Off Broadway’s Minetta Lane Theater, where the evening of short plays opened on Nov. 13 following a run last spring in L.A. ( our original review), is practically bare. A rotating cast of six of stage and TV veterans in business casual attire sit on stools in front of a few empty rows of lucite chairs; a white drape hangs from two oversize gold rings near the ceiling.
But if the décor invokes the simplicity of ”I do”, the roster of nine plays on the subject of same sex-marriage is the theatrical equivalent of a boozy open-bar reception. Couples cuddle and fight and make up. Moms humiliate their kids. And speeches are made — some sweet, some poignant, some painfully funny.
With marriage as a unifying thread, each play explores a different facet of same-sex relationships. Jordan Harrison’s ”The Revision” watches grooms-to-be (Craig Bierko and Richard Thomas) bicker in lawyerese over vows. Mo Gaffney’s ”A Traditional Marriage” and Wendy MacLeod’s ”This Flight Tonight” both detail the sitcom-ready ups and downs of lesbian couples. The emotional payoffs vary widely. Two pieces – Moisés Kaufman’s elegiac ”London Mosquitoes” and Neil LaBute’s challenging, bitter ”Strange Fruit” – drew tearful sniffles. Paul Rudnick’s ”My Husband,” in which a competitively liberal mother (played by a terrifically funny Harriet Harris) bemoans her gay son’s singledom, got howls of laughter. (The cast is scheduled to change every six to eight weeks.)
What too many of the plays share, though, is a smug one-sidedness about the opposition to gay marriage. Conservatives are reduced to histrionic punching bags in both Doug Wright’s ”On Facebook” — ostensibly the transcript of a real right-vs.-left online conversation — and in Rudnick’s other contribution, ”The Gay Agenda.” Both plays are still quite funny, and the night as a whole works wonderfully as a buzzy cocktail of we-did-it cheer. But it comes with a nagging hangover: Should we celebrate gay marriage (now legal in six U.S. states and counting) by resorting to the same low-blow name-calling that united its opponents? B?
(Tickets: Ticketmaster.com or 800-982-2787)