front-Laura Ackermann rear-Pierce Hastings Chase Thomaston

 

The New Jewish Theatre closes out their 18th season with a timely and extremely uplifting production of My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding. When the NJT was planning this season, no doubt they scheduled this show due to its significant success at the Toronto Fringe Festival in 2009 and the 2010 Musical Theater Festival.

 

Marriage equality has been on the political front lines over the last ten years , but now it takes center stage seeing how the Supreme Court will rule soon on whether or not state bans on same-sex marriage are constitutional. As our community (and nation) waits with baited breath, it is fortuitous the NJT stages a production that centers around that very issue.


Written by the husband and wife team, David Hein & Irene Sankoff, the story is autobiographical as David wrote about his own mother's journey of self discovery. Claire (Laura Ackermann), has divorced her husband Garth (John Flack) and takes a job in Ottawa, Canada. While she is forced to leave behind her own son, David (Ben Nordstrom / Pierce Hastings), she is optimistic to start her life over in a new place. She rents an apartment from Michelle (Anna Skidis) who hosts the local lesbian choir which includes Jane (Deborah Sharn) who is not only a lesbian, but also a Wiccan. Claire and Jane hit it off and the story explodes into a tale of self acceptance, cultural clashes, and ultimately, how love conquers all.


The play tackles many issues and keeps the audience on their toes: late in life lesbianism, demystifying the Wiccan lifestyle, coming out to your family, raising children, learning to love yourself, and dealing with the emotional weight of legal marriage. That's a lot of ground for one show to cover but MMLJWW does an excellent job in taking on each of these issues, albeit briefly. It felt as if the play would have benefited from being two acts. For example, the courtship between Claire and Jane deserved to be fleshed out a bit more. But in a one-act musical, things are forced to move swiftly to keep the audience engaged. Fortunately, this production was overflowing with engaging (and hilarious) moments.


The production benefited from Nordstrom's stage charisma and ability to land a joke. Serving as the show's narrator, local favorite Nordstrom excelled in interacting with the audience while his vocal performance and physical comedy gave the production a high dose of energy.


Despite having to fight with her own microphone, Ackermann gave a memorable performance as Claire. While I enjoyed her vocals overall, what sold me was her genuine emotional performance. After a few performances I expect her wordy vocals to flow a bit more naturally, but the tone of her voice was delightful.


Sharn, as Jane, nearly stole the show. She was serving Mother Nature, free spirit, peace and love realness. Sharn completely embodied the Wiccan lifestyle. Her vocals were on point from start to finish and she, like Nordstrom, has that stage charisma that compells you to sit up and take notice.


The show had several spectacular musical moments such as, “Afraid,” “Don't Take Your Lesbian Moms to Hooters,” and “Five Mothers” which showcased the comedic talents of Jennifer Theby-Quinn as Irene. Two other numbers stood out as musical treasures: “Wiccan 101” is a magical number that does a clever job in debunking stereotypes of Wiccan folk. A reworked version of “A Short History of Gay Marriage in Canada” was quite emotional as the ensemble made a case to “legalize love.” 


On the technical side, the show works in the broad strokes, but it just needs a bit of time to gel. Chalk it up to opening night jitters, but a few of the songs seemed as if the actors were tying to just keep pace with the band. The live band was excellent but slightly overwhelming for the small studio space. The sheer number of costume and wig changes was impressive, but it seemed that the actors were so rushed that on a couple occasions they looked disheveled. All of these things should iron out as the run continues.


These small technical gaffes aside, MMLJWW is pure love, joy, and happiness from start to finish. Chock full of hilarious songs, emotionally overwhelming moments, and enjoyable performances, this production caps off the New Jewish Theatre's outstanding 18th season with a fabulous rainbow infused bang.


C'mon girls, let's pack the New Jewish Theatre's house and show them as much love as they have shown us by taking a chance on this wonderful production. No matter if you are L,G,B,T,Q, Q, I A, A or P, there is something in this show for everyone. Sissy that walk as you strut up to the box office to get your tickets for this show – while you still can.


My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding runs through May 31st. Please visit newjewishtheatre.org for show times and ticket prices.

 

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