My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding
by David Hein and Irene Sankoff
Directed by Edward Coffield
New Jewish Theatre
May 7, 2015
New Jewish Theatre is closing out their 2014-2015 season with a love fest. It’s happy, it’s fluffy, and it has a message in there somewhere, but for the most part it’s just extremely entertaining. My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding is a concert-style musical based on the true story of the the creators’ family. With a strong, appealing cast, lots of humor and heart, and an upbeat score, this show is a great way for NJT to end the season on a smile.
The story is narrated by David (Ben Nordstrom, and played as a teenager by Pierce Hastings), a singer-songwriter who had a somewhat unconventional upbringing, splitting his time after his parents’ divorce between his native Nebraska where his dad, Garth (John Flack) lives, and Ottawa, Canada. His mother, Claire (Laura Ackermann) moved there after the divorce to start a new life, and she finds one. It’s not what she expected, either, as she finds herself involved in a lesbian choir led by her roommate Michelle (Anna Skidis), who introduces her to the outgoing Jane (Deborah Sharn). After spending and evening on the town with Jane, Claire realizes she’s attracted, and soon, the two are a couple. That’s just the beginning, though, as the show then goes on to chronicle the story of David’s relationship with his two moms, with his father, and with his eventual wife, Irene (Jennifer Theby-Quinn), all set against the backdrop of the fight to legalize same-sex marriage in Canada and building up to the title wedding, which blends elements of Jane’s Wiccan belief’s and Claire’s Judaism.
This musical deals with a lot of issues, but it never comes across as an “issue play”. Topics of same-sex marriage, divorce, parental relationships both healthy and strained, differences in religious beliefs and spirituality, and the search for identity and personal fulfillment are all addressed here. There are a few moments of drama, as well, especially in the developing relationship between Claire and Jane, and in Claire’s processing her feelings about her first marriage and her relationship with her ex-husband. Still, the overall atmosphere is just plain fun. It’s so upbeat and positive, with many hilarious set pieces and much singing, dancing and laughing. Some memorable scenes include Claire and Jane’s first unofficial “date”, David’s taking Irene to meet his moms at Hooters (not knowing what it’s like), and Irene’s being hovered over by 5 moms at her wedding. The music is well-played and well-sung, and it leaves the audience with an uplifting, positive feeling.
The overall look of the production is colorful, projecting somewhat of an early 70s vibe. Margery and Peter Spack’s set is a round stage festooned with flowers, rainbows and vibrant patterns. The costumes, by Michele Friedman Siler, are similarly striking and full of color. There’s also excellent lighting by James Kolditz, sound by Amanda Werre, and props by Jenny Smith.
The show boasts an immensely likable cast, from the leads to the ensemble. Ackerman is convincing as the initially conflicted but increasingly life-loving Claire, and her scenes with both Sharn as the outgoing and bubbly Jane and with both Davids are engaging and memorable. There’s also some strong support from Theby-Quinn as Irene, with a strong voice, excellent comic timing, and priceless facial expression. Skidis as Michelle and Flack as Garth give amiable performances, as well. Nordstrom is an ideal narrator with charm, charisma, and a great voice, and Hastings is equally strong as the young David. Several of the supporting players, along with ensemble member Chase Thomaston, play various roles as well, and convincingly so.
My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding at NJT is a fun show to watch. It’s bright, it’s energetic, it’s charming, and it’s very well-cast. This is, quite simply, one of the happiest shows I’ve seen all year.