Actors' Summit stages comic, heartfelt 'My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding'

by April Helms special products editor Published:

"My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding" might be a mouthful of a title to say, but its overall message is simple: love can be life changing.

The play, written by David Hein and Irene Carl Sankoff, is based on Hein's own memories and experiences with his mother, who, after divorcing his father, moved to Canada to accept a university job and falls in love with another woman, a Wiccan therapist. The two women eventually marry after Canada becomes the fourth nation to legalize same-sex marriages. It can be seen at Actors' Summit Theatre through Dec. 23.

Neil Thackaberry, who directed the show, said that Connie Thackaberry, his daughter and senior artistic associate with Actors' Summit, knew Sankoff from graduate school and had kept in contact.

"Connie is a great networking person," Thackaberry said. "We actually wanted to open our theater with this show in 2010, but we didn't have the resources then. But they kept in touch, and we watched it as it went from a one-act being performed at theater festivals to the full show."

In some ways, the play is still undergoing changes, he added.

"We had some revised lyrics sent to us last week," Thackaberry said after the Nov. 30 opening night show. The lyrics for "A Short History of Gay Marriage" were updated to include the 2012 general election results, which saw three states legalize same-sex marriages, and a fourth state rejected a ban on same-sex marriage.

Thackaberry said it was "fun to do a new show."

"There's no set traditions, no preconceived expectations," he said. "It's very open and free."

The play is narrated through out by Dave (played by Kevin P. Kern), and begins with Claire (played by Lindsey Mitchell), who is about to board a plane to Canada. She says goodbye to her young son (the younger version of David is played by Daniel Sovich) and her ex-husband Garth (played by Keith Stevens). Claire moves into an apartment with Michelle (played Nov. 30 by Megan Brautigam, who also plays Penny), who directs a women's choir and works for a cat rescue. During one of the choir rehearsals, Claire meets Jane (played by Dawn Sniadak-Yamokoski), and the two women hit it off and gradually fall in love. David moves to Canada to go to high school there, and Claire, Jane and David eventually move into a house.

The reactions from Claire's family run the gamut from her mother's complete nonacceptance and Garth's shock and trepidation, to young David's reaction, which was pretty much "OK, that's cool -- can I go play Nintendo now?" But Claire ultimately finds herself changing into a happier person as she sheds the troubles and failures of her old life and embraces her new life in Canada and with Jane.

The play is mostly the sort of comedy that comes from the pen of someone looking back at life with a keen sense of humor. The funniest scene by far is when David arranges a get-together between himself and his girlfriend -- and later wife -- Irene (played by Hope Caldwell) and his two mothers. The problem, besides the fact that David winds up late for this initial meeting, is the choice of restaurant. Let's just say it would have been hard for David to pick a less appropriate venue.

As with any family setting, there is conflict and sadness, especially when Claire experiences a personal tragedy that requires her to go back to Nebraska for a time and face a lot of painful memories.

Also in the cast is Zach Griffin, who plays Sam and is in the ensemble. J.T. Buck is the music director and plays the keyboard, with Mark Bussinger on percussion. Kern plays guitar.

Ticket and show information

Cost for Thursday and Sunday shows are $28 for adults and $26 for seniors over 65 are $25. Fridays are $28 for all, and Saturdays are $30. All full time students with ID can attend any performance for $9. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m., and Sunday matinees are at 2.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.actorssummit.org, or by phone at 330-374-7568.

The theater is at 103 High St., on the sixth floor of historic Greystone Hall in downtown Akron.

Talkbacks

On Dec. 14, the Rev. Melissa Carvill-Ziemer and Evin Carvill-Ziemer will join the Actors' Summit audience for a discussion on the Marriage Equality movement.

The Rev. Carvill-Ziemer is currently serving as the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent. She also serves as the President of Unitarian Universalist Allies for Racial Equity. Melissa's wife, Evin Carvill-Ziemer, is currently the Interim Minister at Southwest Unitarian Universalist Church. Evin's GLBT advocacy work has included working as an out queer/gender queer teacher, supporting the formation of local Gay Straight Alliances, and participating in the Massachusetts campaign for marriage equality in 2003.

Next on stage

Actors' Summit will next produce "Fiction" by Steven Dietz, which will be staged Jan. 13 through Feb. 3.

Email: ahelms@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9438

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