The premise of #RelationshipStatus is pretty straightforward -- it's composed of a series of four recurring (and occasionally interlocking) vignettes, featuring Minnesotan couples in the aftermath of the Marriage Equality bill. It's hard not to respond to this material, particularly for those of us in the arts community, most of whom participated in this struggle to some degree or another. But I couldn't help wishing that the script was willing to dig a little bit deeper into these characters and their relationships.
The jokes are for the most part fairly easy, standard sitcom fare (the script references Modern Family at one point, and the comedy's largely at that level) -- familiar, not surprising. Many of the characters seem to function more as demographic proxies than they do as fully fleshed-out individuals with detailed inner lives and conflicting motives of their own. What’s more, I was dismayed to realize that two of the three gay men we meet are largely flamboyant, effeminate stereotypes. I've known plenty of flamboyant, effeminate gay men, but without exploring some more layers these characters don't come off as more than tropes onstage.
The vignette centering on the show’s most interesting pair -- an older, conservative couple estranged from their gay son -- also gets mired pretty quickly in the standard "out-of-touch" gags, though that's redeemed a bit as their thread develops.
I was impressed, and moved, by the emotional curtain speech given by one of the co-creators, who revealed through tears that one of the vignettes (an awkward first date) was autobiographical, based on her initial meeting with the woman she hopes to one day marry. She's clearly both thoughtful and passionate, and in a relationship about which she feels deeply. I wish we could have seen some more of that story as part of the script, rather than the wispy meet-cute that we got.
CAVEAT: the director of this show (Meredith Larson) also directed a one-minute play I wrote last winter, though I don't believe we've officially met face-to-face.
Related performance details:
#RelationshipStatus by Someday, Wine Productions has two shows remaining at Mixed Blood Theatre: Friday, 8/8 (4 pm) and Saturday, 8/9 (8:30 pm). The 2014 Minnesota Fringe Festival runs from July 31 to August 10.
phillip andrew bennett low is a Chinese-American playwright and poet, storyteller and mime, theatre critic and libertarian activist. His performances have won acclaim at such varied venues as the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, Spirit in the House, FoolFest, CONvergence, and the Chicago, DC, Indianapolis, Iowa, and Kansas City Fringe Festivals -- even as far as Melbourne, Australia. He is the co-founder of the Rockstar Storytellers (for which he served as Chair for the two years that position existed) and was founder and producer of the touring theatre troupe Maximum Verbosity.