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Op-ed: is Just a Big Pitch for Gay Marriage 

Op-ed: is Just a Big Pitch for Gay Marriage 

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The New York City production of Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays, was an evening of nine 10-minute plays, that premiered Sunday in Greenwich Village. Having seen it in previews the previous night, I have some thoughts about this theatrical procession of emotional pleas for marriage equality.

The standout of the show is Richard Thomas, who powerfully delivers the monologue in Moises Kaufman's London Mosquitos. Polly Draper is hot, she is also a super thin white woman dressed in a black cat suit and black boots with quite an ample heel while her partner in, um, marriage, Beth Leavel, teeters in red pumps and is also a conventionally attractive white woman with an acceptable body type for live theatre.

I must say there was no gay vibe coming from the stage. These actors were performing gay and lesbian. The women's' costumes signified men's (and straight women's) fantasies of lesbians while the (all-but-one) white male actors' suits were business as usual. Not a whole lot of diversity going on.

There was something disingenuous to me about the whole production. While a few plays range from very funny (especially those by Mo Gaffney and Paul Rudnick), to incredibly moving (Moises Kaufman) to really, really bad (Neil LaBute), there was a sense this theatrical production is larger than theatre.

Rudnick has not one, but two plays in the production. The Gay Agenda is an uproariously funny piece about a hysterical Family Focus-type woman who totally wigs out. The other, My Husband, is a gay turn on Rudnick's default position of Jewish mother bashing. Gaffney's comical Traditional Wedding recounts the wedding choices of a middle-aged lesbian couple, complete with a relationship chart much like Alice kept on The L Word.

I think I know what the producers were thinking when they chose to include LaBute's Strange Fruit, the content of which is surely "ripped from the headlines." Opening with the statement, "I love cock," and closing with a gay bashing episode, it seems LaBute was trying too hard to capture what he must think is a gay voice or gay moment. He doesn't do either. The title is also an outrageous appropriation (in a bad way) of the title of a song made famous by Billie Holliday about American racism, and particularly the lynching of African Americans.

I'm not sure I know exactly who the intended audience for this production is. I do know various barriers will exclude some. Can working-class or poor lesbians and gay men afford a ticket? Will they even be interested? Will bisexual or transpeople dig a show billed as a community happening when Bs and Ts are not represented anywhere in the production?

Some people may not be able to afford the tickets, which are currently priced from $26 to $80 -- inexpensive for regular Manhattan theatergoers, but still. Women may or may not be interested in a production comprised of nine playlettes that includes only two female playwrights whose plays are the only ones actually about lesbians, and where misanthropic and misogynistic playwright Neil LaBute's play offends and insults even the gay men that it is about. The inclusion of LaBute at all is clearly for the sake of name recognition, perhaps a dash of his brand of darkness, and certainly to ensure the production, like marriage, is a hot commodity.

The playwrights seem to preach to the already converted or make a modest proposal to friendly fence sitters. Moises Kaufman has been quoted as saying there is no particular pro-marriage agenda, but doesn't giving a percentage of proceeds to Freedom to Marry and other marriage equality groups belie this?

Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson is quoted as saying he and his organization are excited to "have such a high level of talent involved" and hopes the work will move toward everyone being able to be married.

I wish more members of the lesbian and gay community were interested in and committed to economic justice for all both within and outside of our community, as well as eradicating homelessness, hunger, and poverty. And, instead of -- or in addition to -- sinking money, time, and energy into fighting for marriage (a privilege, by the way, not a civil right), gays might take a step back and look at both immediate and long-term survival issues.

Is it helpful that mostly white, middle class gay men and lesbians can afford to get married while others, including other middle class queers, working class, poor, and other LGBT folks are starving, losing their apartments and jobs, and have gone decades without medical care because they cannot afford health insurance?

It's very confounding to me -- this marriage production, and this production about marriage. Marriage has become a commodity, sold to and bought by gays of all stripes. Gays are a niche market and a supposedly wealthy one at that. We're targets not only of wedding planners, segregated sections in bookstores, marketing campaigns for everything from cigarettes and liquor to pharmaceuticals and financial institutions, but every other commercial venture, product and service under the sun.

And now, we've got our "own" theatrical production about marriage. Throw the rice, kiss the broom. In the end, Standing on Ceremony is a theatre piece that is yet another indoctrination into the cult of the status quo.

STEPHANIE SCHROEDER is a writer living in New York City who covers art, music and culture for publications including Curve Magazine.

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