The Un-Marrying Project
nytheatre.com review by Leslie Bramm
April 9, 2011
Slavery, women’s suffrage, gay rights—none of these great societal battles was won without a fight. Today one of the most pressing social issues is the right of all people to marry—legally and under the eyes of whatever God (or not) one chooses. Such is the conundrum posed in Larry Kunofsky’s The Un-Marrying Project. The premise is simple. Married couples, of all stripes, all ages, and religious persuasions will divorce and separate, as a protest, until all those who are in love are allowed the chance to legally marry.
For many of us this issue is a no-brainer. Anyone who is in love should have the legal right to make the commitment to spend the rest of their lives together. If our Constitution reduces a certain faction of its citizenry to second class, and creates laws that establish legal bans, where does the banning stop? Who is allowed to get married? This issue couldn’t be more important, and the future of our nation depends on how we respond to this and similar battles for equality.
Kunofsky takes a light tone, and seems to be recreating an extended episode of Laugh-In more than a play that uses humor as a cry to action. One of the challenges today's liberals face is that few are ready to sacrifice to win this fight. It would seem to me the Left is waging a toothless campaign against a Right that will stop at nothing to win. Some say this is what sets liberals apart. Maybe so, but perhaps it’s also what sets liberals back. Kunofsky’s play sometimes seems to be backing off when it should be muscling up.
Performed in rotating vignettes, we follow the story of an Orthodox Jewish couple, a gay couple, a lesbian couple, an elderly couple, a pompous pair, and Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon. Kim and Simon, the only unmarried couple, have given birth to this idea of making a documentary film on the subject, and the aforementioned couples, as well as the audience are part of this film. At 2 hours and 30 minutes, the play makes its point a few too many times, but never socks you in the gut.
Rachel Eckerling’s direction keeps the play moving at a good clip and the transitions smooth. Timing is everything and her pacing is right on the money.
Tim McMath’s set is amazing. It’s the most unique way of handling props I’ve ever seen in a play. There are slanting arches on which a video tickertape runs continuous narration. The slanted back wall is painted gray, as are all the props. Phones, trays, cups, bowls of salad, etc., are all stuck to the back wall, and pulled off to use when needed. It resembles one of those eye puzzles. It is an effective idea that is executed with skill and craft.
An interracial and multi-aged cast all works well together. They have individual moments and group bits that are terrific. I was there for opening night, and the actors flew with it.
I wonder if the participants in the Stonewall riots had not bashed back—had not harassed the cops, had not broken some windows: would the movement have found its point of attack? That single incendiary incident galvanized a community and made a whole nation pay attention. Our own independence from Britain was won with a well-thought-out premise, and a lot of light torches. I think the theatre’s role should be vital in tackling such issues. Plays should inspire people to action. To piss them off. To have them at least lighting metaphorical torches, and breaking symbolic windows.
This is Purple Rep's inaugural show. They deserve much credit for taking on this issue, as does Kunofsky for writing about it. They have a lot of talent around them. It’s time for this promising, young company to come out swinging.