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Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays Presents Master Work By Established Playwrights

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The set-up:

Nine short plays with a common theme - gay marriage - by established playwrights have been gathered into an evening of entertainment. The plays avoid polemics, proselytizing, and anger, and instead center on loving, long-term relationship, newly-mets, and articulate, voluble mothers.

The execution:

The audience is addressed directly, in the story-telling mode, in a number of these plays, so they lend themselves to being presented in a concert version, with scripts on music stands, as here. The writing is at the very highest level of quality, refreshingly so, and simply watching master playwrights at work is one of the many pleasures of the evening.

Two of the plays are by Paul Rudnick (Jeffrey, I Hate Hamlet et al.), so it's no surprise that they are brilliant, and hilarious. In The Gay Agenda, a distraught mother insists that she has no prejudice as she lists a long range of associations to which she belongs, one with the phrase "Aryan Family", and her paranoia deepens as she hears imaginary gay voices telling her she needs to lose weight, that her home is poorly decorated, etc.

In My Husband, a mother is proud of her gay son, but deeply disappointed that he is not yet married, as though gay marriage was the new black. She sets out to remedy this, and just as you think it can't get any funnier, it does, as Rudnick piles on new and inventive riffs. The play's brilliance is matched by Marcy Bannor, who plays both mothers, and is a paragon of energy and comic timing.

Neil LaBute tends to be misogynistic in his writing (Fat Pig), but here surprises with a tender love story, beautifully crafted by LaBute and sensitively performed by Randall Jobe and Lynn Miller. Equally moving is London Mosquitos by Moises Kaufman, as a surviving partner gives the eulogy for his departed long-time lover, and actor Terry Jones finds the warmth and dignity in the play. While the characters here are gay, the love in the relationships is universal.

On Facebook, by Craig Wright, satirizes a running thread of debate on Facebook, between a homophobic divorcee and more liberal view-holders, and is original and witty. This Flight Tonight, by Wendy McLeod, has two lesbians at an airport flying to another state to get married. In The Revision, by Jordan Harrison, two engaged men rewrite the marriage vows to make them fit state laws, but I found the humor here heavy-handed.

The evening is co-directed by Jimmy Phillips and Ron Jones, and may not appeal to everyone, nor is it intended to. But its entertainment value is primarily mainstream, and the event can be enjoyed by anyone who is a mensch, though grinches need not apply.

The verdict:

Gifted playwrights converge on a common theme - gay marriage - and the result is nine plays filled with wit, warmth and wisdom - and a level of writing to be savored, in the midst of hilarity.

Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays continues through September 29, from Celebration Theatre at the Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church, 2025 E. 11th St. For ticketing or information, call 832-330-5478 or contact www.CelebrationTheatreHouston.com.

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