REVIEW: Standing On Ceremony – The Gay Marriage Plays

Talented team in this topical theatrical anthology

By Myron My

Spencer McLaren, Brett Whittingham and Luke Jacka in StandingOnCeremony Photo Credit - John Shelbourn

Standing On Ceremony consists of nine short plays by well-known Broadway writers dealing with the theme of gay marriage.  There are therefore some great writers, plus the fine directors and a talented ensemble cast involved in this production, so expectations were set high to begin with.

Unfortunately I walked out feeling somewhat disappointed, and it’s not through the acting or the directing, but the plays that were originally chosen for this work. For example, The Revision by Jordan Harrison has two men writing their wedding vows whereas José Rivera’s Andrew and Pablo at the Alter of Words has two men exchanging their wedding vows. Whilst both pieces are good, they are indicative of the strong sense of déjà vu I felt running throughout the night when thematic possibilities seemed to become recurring characters or storylines.

That said, Doug Wright’s On Facebook comes together really well, and Neil LaBute’s Strange Fruit is particularly impressive. Both stories are both unique and inherently interesting, and Spencer McLaren and Brett Whittingham’s performances in the latter are understated and honest, captured by that wonderful palpable silence in the final moments. However, among the excellent cast of actors, it is Michael Veitch who delivers the strongest performance of the night as the man mourning the loss of his longtime lover in Moisés Kaufman’s moving London Mosquitos.

In this production, the musical interludes between plays by David Ellis, Laura Burzcott and Karl Lewis are a nice touch and do well in setting the scene before the next story begins. It feels like they are part of the overall work and blend in seamlessly. Similarly, the elegant set design consists of a number of white boxes stacked up on top of each other in a tetris-like formation and having the backdrop projected onto them. With nine stories, this simply yet effectively set the scene for each one.

I couldn’t help wishing for more variety in the collection as the similarities between many of the stories and characters did not seem to express the wealth and complexity of possibilities, but Standing On Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays delivers what it’s title proclaims, this is an admirable production of it, and the proceeds go to Australian Marriage Equality.

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran

Season: Until 9 February | Tues-Fri 8:00pm, Wed 2:00pm, Sat 5:00pm and 9:00pm, Sun 5:00pm

Tickets: $45.50 Full | $39.50 Conc

Bookings: www.standingonceremony.com.au, www.midsumma.org.au, 9415 9819 or www.chapeloffchapel.com.au, 8290 7000

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