There's Something About Marriage
nytheatre.com review by Debbie Hoodiman Beaudin
August 17, 2007
Theatre can be an excellent forum for exploration of current issues, and Theatre Rhinoceros's show There's Something About Marriage invites the audience to "join the debate" on the issue of same-sex marriage. In this raunchy, sometimes satirical, sometimes political, very silly, show, San Francisco's oldest gay theater company creates a sort of collage of thoughts about gay sexuality and the issue of same-sex marriage.
Structurally, the show is broken up into a few throughlines woven together.
One throughline consists of audience participation, led mainly by John Fisher (who also directs and created the show) and sometimes by Maryssa Wanlass. In the segments where Fisher and Wanlass talk directly to the audience, some of the dialogue comes from a dirty audience survey given out at the beginning of the show, and knowing I might get to talk to the actors (or win a prize!) certainly felt exciting. However, I thought it was strange that none of the dialogue with the audience is directly about same-sex marriage or even marriage at all. Perhaps, the purpose is to get the audience warmed-up, loosened-up, and involved, not to find out what we think.
There is also a story line exploring the dating history of two same-sex couples (one female, one male) who meet online. This throughline was interesting because it showed how we can think we know what we want in a partner yet be completely wrong about what we need. It's also interesting that the two couples end up having different views about whether they want to get married at all, showing a diversity of opinions, which helps to balance the show. In the story lines of the two couples, I enjoyed the acting by the company, particularly A.K. Conrad's ditzy, pop-culture-obsessed, flirtatious boy and Sara Moore's Midwestern, sort-of dorky, totally sincere character.
There is also a satirical bit about Gavin Newsom (played with appropriate broadness by Conrad), who legalized gay marriage in San Francisco in 2004. The sequences about Newsom make fun of him in a way that is true to sketch comedy, and explore the actual history of what happened. I enjoyed these sequences because they gave information about the politics of the issue and how sometimes controversial issues can galvanize not only those who want change but also those against the issue.
Worked into the live sequences is video, some of which is explicit. One video, credited to David Mahr, is a montage of same-sex weddings, while Mahr's song, "Stop the Gays," plays. The video has a documentary feeling, and the song, which is not completely pro-same-sex marriage, coupled with the video, again, gives the show diversity of opinion.
Overall, There's Something About Marriage left me a bit disappointed. I expected a deeper, more nuanced conversation. I think I understand what Fisher is trying to do: approach the issues while still having fun. However, I think I would have enjoyed the show more if Fisher had invited the audience to talk more about gay marriage and if it had delved deeper into the issue.