Friday, May 15, 2015

MY MOTHER’S LESBIAN JEWISH WICCAN WEDDING • New Jewish Theatre

With the political hot potato of marriage equality reaching critical mass in the States, NJT closes its 18th season with a Canadian musical that couldn’t be more timely. David Hein and his wife Irene Sankoff’s, “My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding”, drew acclaim at the 2009 Toronto Fringe and the 2010 New York Musical Theater Festival, and is inspired by the real-life coming out of Hein's mother, and the teenage years he spent with her and his other mom, Jane.

Claire’s son, David (an appealing guitar-playing Ben Nordstrom), serves as our narrator for the evening, and takes us through the story of his mother’s discovery of true love, and her reconnection with her Jewish roots. After a nasty divorce, Claire (Laura Ackermann), a non-practicing Jew, moves from Nebraska to take a job as a professor of psychology in Ottowa, where she meets and falls in love with Jane (Deborah Sharn), a devoted Wiccan and therapist. Along with the laughs, there’s also a bit of heft slipped into this fluffy musical comedy that catches you off-guard -- like finding some meat under layers of light, savory pastry.

Deborah Sharn (Jane), Pierce Hastings (Young David),
Laura Ackermann (Claire) and Ben Nordstrom (David).
Photo credit: Eric Woolsey
Nordstrom’s easy-going performance guides us through the proceedings, and Ackermann portrays all of the ups and downs of Claire’s journey with heartfelt command. Sharn’s portrayal of Jane also brims with convincing sincerity, including a breakdown of the Wiccan religion in her number, "Wiccan 101." MMLJWW (I gotta shorten that title) is also bolstered by equally strong performances from the ensemble members who take on multiple roles. John Flack is memorable as Claire’s ex-husband, Garth, particularly in his number, “Hot Lesbian Action”, and Pierce Hastings does a fine job as an accepting young David, with Chase Thomaston making wonderful appearances as an airline pilot, a television reporter, and a few women’s roles. Anna Skidis as Michelle, Claire’s lesbian roommate, has a thing or two to come to terms with herself when she’s not volunteering at the cat rescue center, and is great as a Hooters girl in the number, “Don't Take Your Lesbian Moms to Hooters.” Jennifer Theby-Quinn’s comic talents shine as Irene, David’s girlfriend, in numbers like “You Don't Need a Penis” and “Five Mothers”, along with lending some subtle shading and depth to a role that the script doesn’t necessarily allow for, considering Irene's father is a conservative Government official and the nationwide gay marriage vote in Canada is at hand. That all happens a little quickly, but hey, it's a musical comedy.

John Flack, Jennifer Theby-Quinn, Anna Skidis,
Deborah Sharn, Pierce Hastings and Laura Ackermann.
Photo credit: Eric Woolsey
Margery and Peter Spack’s outstanding scenic design is an explosion of circular, multicolored, psychedelic goodness, with a little raised platform for the band, that under Charlie Mueller’s musical direction sounded great, though they threatened to drown out the voices unless the ensemble was singing together.

Even though some of the more serious issues of gay marriage are handled with a lighter touch, under Edward Coffield's deft direction, it's a fun, open-hearted show with great performances from a top-notch cast. It's playing until the 31st.


MY MOTHER’S LESBIAN JEWISH WICCAN WEDDING

Written by David Hein & Irene Sankoff 
Directed by Edward Coffield
Marvin & Harlene Wool Studio, 2 Millstone Campus Drive Creve Coeur
through May 31 | tickets: $36 - $40
Performances Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm & 7:30pm, Sunday the 31st at 2pm

Deborah Sharn (Jane), Anna Skidis (Michelle)
and Laura Ackermann (Claire).
Photo credit: Eric Woolsey
Cast:
Ben Nordstrom* (David), Laura Ackermann* (Claire), Deborah Sharn (Jane), John Flack* (Garth, others), Anna Skidis (Michelle, Becki, others), Jennifer Theby-Quinn (Penny, Irene, others), Chase Thomaston (Pilot, Rabbi, others), Pierce Hastings (Young David/others).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Creative:
Scenic design and artist, Margery and Peter Spack; lighting design by James Kolditz; costume design by Michele Friedman Siler; sound design by Amanda Werre; properties design by Jenny Smith; choreography by Liam Johnson; wig consultant, Christie Sifford; music direction by Charlie Mueller, stage manager, Mary Jane Probst, assistant stage manager, Brendan Woods; assistant director, Max Friedman.

Musicians:
Keyboards, Charlie Mueller; guitars, Aaron Doerr, Ben Nordstrom; bass, Adam Anello; percussion, Jason Hatcher.

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