The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
At the close of Actors' Summit's performance of "My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding" that I saw, all the players took a group cast bow. The gesture befit the tight ensemble work that they had just performed, with all the actors adding significantly to the clever, smart script that is this play.
Actors' Summit, a Knight Arts grantee, is producing new plays for this area during the current season, and MMLJWW is among that throng. You can immediately tell that it's a musical comedy by the ending. They usually end in a wedding, and so does this one.
The story is basically the real life of David Hein, who co-authored the play with Irene Carl Sankoff. They presented it first in Canada, which is the basic setting, where it was nominated for several awards, before sending it on the be part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2010, where it won "Outstanding New Musical" and "Excellence in Book Writing."
David's mother, Claire (played by LindseyMitchell with an emotional fullness of character that generally doesn't find its way into the genre), is leaving her family in Nebraska and heading to Ottawa, Canada to take a teaching job. That change in her life triggers much more substantial ones. She discovers she wants out of her marriage, away from her Jewish mother, and starts understanding her true nature as a lesbian.
She joins a women's chorus and there discovers the love of her life, Jane (played strongly and Wiccan-ly well by Dawn Sniadak-Yamokoski). The initial drama revolves around her coming out as lesbian -- first to her son (played as a young man by Daniel Sovich and as an older David, the guitar-playing narrator played by Kevin P. Kern), who comes in and out of the action as needed to give the audience cues to his mother's state of mind.
A lot of the fun of the play comes from the women developing a life together -- adjusting to their Jewish and Wiccan ways, protesting for equal rights, and ultimately for the right to marry in Canada -- a real event. When the law passes, the women start deciding if they want their lives to go that way, just as the son is making plans for his own wedding. And of course, they do.
This is a fun play, with music that is a gentle and emotionally charged vehicle for handling sensitive subjects lightly -- marriage and divorce, coming out as a lesbian, dealing with family and the baggage that can bring, and including the hot political topic of same sex marriage that has been headlines for months.
Neil Thackaberry's direction of the actors is superb. Played essentially in the round, the nine actors sweep the audience so that no one misses a thing. There are a slew of costumes . Mary Jo Alexander did an amazing job with them, as did the actors who had to make what must have been split-second changes.
"My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding" is being performed at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through December 23 at Actors' Summit, Greystone Hall, 103 S. High St., Akron; 330-374-7568; www.actorssummit.org. Tickets are $30 ($9 for students).