As November 6, and the statewide vote about same-sex marriage approaches, Frank Theatre and Hennepin Theatre Trust have entered the discussion with "Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays," 11 short plays by 10 major playwrights, who between them have earned two Pulitzer Prizes, an Emmy and three Tony nominations.
The plays are by turns thought-provoking, politically astute and bitingly hilarious. Frank Theatre Artistic Director Wendy Knox offers sharp direction to her ensemble of six actors, playing 26 characters. This is one of the smartest, most satisfying evenings of theater I've experienced in quite some time.
The evening begins with light pieces: two men rewriting their vows to reflect the political realities; and two women experiencing cold feet as they board a plane to Iowa to wed.
One of the strongest plays is "This Marriage is Saved" by Joe Keenan. Sean Hamilton Brown plays a fundamentalist pastor who goes on a talk show with his wife (Aimee K. Bryant), after he is caught with a male prostitute. This satire gets at the heart of religious hypocrisy. "On Facebook" by Doug Wright, an adaptation of an actual Facebook thread, wittily lays out both sides of the argument.
Several of the playlets poke fun at gay marriage. Mo Gaffney's "A Traditional Wedding" describes a lesbian couple's outrageously non-traditional nuptials. In Paul Rudnick's "My Husband," Jim Lichtscheidel's Jewish mother (Laura Adams) pushes him to get married because she wants the status.
Jeffrey Hatcher creates a nuanced and touching exploration of the marriage between a wife and her potentially gay husband.
Moisés Kaufmann's "London Mosquitos" features actor Mark Rhein as a man delivering a eulogy for his partner of 46 years. It's devastating, fully capturing the man's love and grief.
The intimate space of the New Century Theatre is an ideal venue. There is minimal staging and the actors frequently perform with script in hand, but in minutes the scripts seem to disappear. Knox puts the focus firmly on the strong performances and the excellent scripts.
The evening ends with a wedding ceremony and two men exchanging vows. This was nothing political, just a poignant expression of affection and faith. It culminates a deeply felt examination of the issue.