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Plays about gay marriage have a successful return visit to Cleveland Public Theatre

Roy Berko

(Member, American Theatre Critics Association & Cleveland Critics Circle)

In October of 2012, when Cleveland Public Theatre first staged, STANDING ON CEREMONY THE GAY MARRIAGE PLAYS, “same sex marriage was legal in nine states (Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington and the District of Columbia).”  At the same time, “30 states had added language to their constitutions banning same-sex marriage.”

On October 18, while the play was running, “The 2nd U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act, (DOMA), violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause.”

On March 5, 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, when STANDING ON CEREMONY THE GAY MARRIAGE PLAYS, opened for a return visit to CPT, same-sex marriage “has been legalized in 37 states, the District of Columbia, and 22 Native American tribal jurisdictions.”  “More than 70% of the population lives in jurisdictions where same-sex couples can legally marry.”  In addition, on April 28, 2015, the US Supreme Court will hear oral arguments as to whether a state may refuse to license same-sex marriage or to recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions.  There is hope that before the end of the year,  marriage equality will an issue on the “to do” gay agenda.

As the old advertising statement declared, “We’ve come a long way baby.”

As my review of the 2012 play stated, “Since theatre represents the era from which it comes, here in the United States, attitudes about the women’s movement were presented by feminist plays.  The Black movement found African American writers sending forth their messages.  Today, with the Gay rights movement in full swing, it is only logical that some of that community’s issues reach the forefront.”  STANDING ON CEREMONY is such a production.

“STANDING ON CEREMONY THE GAY MARRIAGE PLAYS, started in 2011 in Los Angeles as a series of fund raising events, when the issue of same sex marriage was in the news in an on-again, off-again legal fight for legalization in California. Money from the productions was donated to marriage equality organizations.   The battle was eventually won.

The 90-minute play, staged with an intermission, was conceived by Brain Shnipper.

The offerings are not an attempt to provide a balanced viewpoint on the issue, but exposing humorous, touching, and controversial topics.

In LA and New York, it was presented as a staged reading with a rotating cast of celebrities taking the roles, reading parts while standing behind podiums.   At Cleveland Public Theatre, there is a set cast and the scenes are staged, with memorized lines, costumes, a set, and creative staging.

The script, which consists of nine playlets, is the work of writers whose accolades include the nominations and/or receipt of Pulitzer Prizes, Obies, Emmys, and Tonys.  Each presents his/her unique take on before, after and during the “I do,” and views of people for and opposed to marriage equality.

The first act consists of:

•THE REVISION  Jordan Harrison’s amusing look at how two men go about writing their wedding vows to reflect the limited options available to a gay couple and the difficulty in or of finding the words to describe the process and the participants.

•THIS FLIGHT TONIGHT  Wendy MacLeod asks if there can be any hope for happiness when a lesbian couple travels to Iowa to take their vows.

•THE GAY AGENDA  Paul Rudnicks’ sad, yet hilarious appeal for restricting marriage to that between a man and a woman by an Ohio homemaker, who is a member of the extreme right wing religiously conservative, Focus on the Family and all the other organizations opposed to same sex union equality.

•ON FACEBOOK  Doug Wright takes on social media by following an actual Facebook thread chronicling a discussion on the subject of gay marriage, which starts out innocently and ends up as an all-out assault.

•STRANGE FRUIT  Neil LaBute’s story of two men who marry in California and go to Hotel Coronado on their honeymoon.   Tragedy strikes one of them when he goes out for cigarettes.

The second act centers on:

•A TRADITIONAL WEDDING  Mo Gaffney gives a glimpse of a fourteen year relationship.

•MY HUSBAND  Paul Rudnick gives a delightful glimpse into the machinations of an ultra liberal Jewish mother who is desperate to find a husband for her gay son.

•LONDON MOSQUITOES  Moisés Kaufman’s poignant story of a man who, at his husband’s funeral, tries to make sense of the loss.

•PABLO AND ANDRE AT THE ALTAR OF WORDS  José Rivera’s snapshot of two men who use their wedding vows to say the things that people never really say to each other.

The CPT production, again under the creative and focused eye of Craig J. George, wrings out all of the humor and pathos of each of the scenes. The segments are melded together by creative choreography centering around rearranging the chairs, and appropriate music.

The cast, which includes Molly Andrews-Hinders, Maryann Elder, Dana Hart, and Beth Wood from the 2012 cast, and newcomers Val Kozlenko, Matt O’Shea, and Wesley Allen, are universally excellent.

Highlight segments include MaryAnn Elder’s impassioned attempt, in THE GAY AGENDA, to explain the conservative view against same sex marriage.  Elder also excels IN MY HUSBAND as the Jewish mother/liberal professor’s attempt to find a husband for her son because, “what will my friends think if you aren’t married?”  Dana Hart induces impassioned sadness in LONDON MOSQUITOES as the husband left to grieve his long-time gay companion.  Beth Wood is properly hyper-hysterical over the thought of gay life in Iowa in THIS FLIGHT TONIGHT.

The final segment, PABLO AND ANDREW AT THE ALTAR OF WORDS, is the weakest scene.  Weakly written, it seemed tacked on, rather than being a culminating segment.

T. Paul Lowry has adapted Russ Borski’s original set to include screens on which electronic media are played to represent locations as well as significant film footage of events.

Capsule judgement:   STANDING ON CEREMONY THE GAY MARRIAGE PLAYS is a must see production for anyone who has empathy toward  same sex marriage movement.  It should be required seeing for conservatives who don’t understand why there is a need for a “gay agenda.” It’s also of value to return attendees as a second viewing exposes subtle materials not previously grasped, the set is new, and there have been some positive cast changes.

STANDING ON CEREMONY THE GAY MARRIAGE PLAYS runs though March 21,2015.  For tickets call 216-631-2727 or go on line to