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There's Something About Marriage

There's Something About Marriage
Conceived by John Fisher

Theatre Rhino Goes to the New York Fringe Festival
Friday, August 17 @ 7 pm
Sunday, August 19 @ 8:45 pm
Monday, August 20 @ 9 pm
Tuesday, August 21 @ 3:30 pm
Wednesday, August 22 @ 9 pm
Center for Architecture
536 LaGuardia Place (between Bleecker & West 3rd)
The Rhino takes its irreverent look at the wannabe institution of Same-Sex Marriage to New York City.
Conceived and Directed by John Fisher
in collaboration with David Bicha and Maryssa Wanlass

San Francisco Chronicle story, August 10, 2007

"Rhino charges east"

Theatre Rhinoceros is preparing to celebrate its longevity as the nation's oldest "queer" theater company by taking a show to the New York Fringe Festival just before its 30th anniversary season begins. "There's Something About Marriage" - an "irreverent look at the wannabe institutions of same-sex marriage," conceived and directed by Artistic Director John Fisher - plays Aug. 17-22 at New York's Center for Architecture as part of the fringe. Fisher, who also wrote "Marriage" and developed it in workshops at Rhino in the spring, co-stars in the piece with co-author Maryssa Wanlass and actors Sara Moore and A.K. Conrad.
The Rhino's 30th gets under way Sept. 20 with its own look back in celebration, a revue of selections from past work called "Theatre Rhinoceros: The First Thirty Years." Meanwhile, in a kind of cross-country exchange, the theater is playing host to a show arriving fresh from its own well-received off-Broadway run. Plan-B Theatre Company of Salt Lake City opens tonight at the Rhino and runs through Aug. 26 with its production of "Facing East," an original play by Carol Lynn Pearson about upstanding Mormon parents coping with the suicide of their gay son. Tickets at (415) 861-5079, - Robert Hurwitt


There’s Something About Marriage

TalkinBroadway Theatre Review by Matthew Murray

There’s Something About Marriage, which is playing at the Center for Architecture as part of the New York International Fringe Festival, is the first show I’ve ever seen to insists its audience members leave their cell phones on - and mean it. In fact, John Fisher, the de facto emcee and Executive Director of San Francisco’s Theatre Rhinoceros (from which this production comes), even offers a prize - “one whole dollar!” - to the first person to receive a call during the show. Gimmicky? Yes. But believe it or not, there is a point: As Fisher explains it, he wants Americans to be a part of the dialogue about gay marriage, and that means keeping all lines of communication open.

The discussion the show encourages, however, is presented as an all-out burlesque. Conceiver-director Fisher, A.K. Conrad, Sara Moore, and Maryssa Wanlass enact a dozen or so fast-paced skits focusing on topics of vital interest to San Franciscans and Americans in general. Among them: Mayor Gavin Newsom’s 2004 same-sex marriage initiative, scenes from the lives of two couples (one male, one female) pondering the meaning of love and commitment in their own lives, the extent to which President Bush was reelected because of a gay-marriage backlash, and even parodic game shows aimed at identifying in-the-closet straights, unveiling lesbians’s sexual habits, and determining the degree to which homosexual self-loathing is lied about.

Despite being coated with a crude shallowness - which reaches its nadir (or, depending on your point of view, its zenith) in two gay porn clips for which the audience is encouraged to provide the soundtracks - There’s Something About Marriage is a compellingly complex look at an oversimplified subject. Its interweaving of political and social concerns is deceptively sophisticated, and its messages are hardly of the sound-bite variety. If you’re expecting this show to be either an inveterate drum-beater for gay marriage or to firmly denounce it, you’ll be disappointed: The show collects more diverse opinions and attitudes about the subject than you’ll find in most news accounts or editorials.

Even if they’re wrapped in a satiric package, you’re forced to take them seriously. As There’s Something About Marriage examines so many facets of this struggle for equality, you might just find yourself stunned at the fresh understanding you take away from a subject that often seems to have been discussed to completion. Review

There's Something About Marriage

August 20, 2007

By Paul Menard

San Francisco's legendary Theatre Rhinoceros has invaded New York and wants to know what you think about same-sex marriage. Its audience-goading Fringe Festival entry, There's Something About Marriage, hopes to illustrate that this frequently oversimplified issue may be more complicated than either side is willing to admit.

A faux seminar about "gay empowerment" composed of improvisation, short skits, and game-show antics, There's Something About Marriage aims to keep audiences off kilter. Whether through the highly personal questionnaire with yes or no the only possible responses to outlandish sexual questions or the screening of hardcore gay porn for which the audience is asked to provide the soundtrack, the show tries to rattle audiences into confronting dichotomies, stereotypes, and facile thinking.

But don't expect the Rhinoceros gang to provide answers or confront the issue of marriage equality itself. Instead, the piece bluntly criticizes the political strategies and social brouhaha surrounding the debate. Review

There's Something About Marriage

reviewed by Debbie Hoodiman Beaudin

Aug 17, 2007

Theatre can be an excellent forum for exploration of current issues, and Theatre Rhinoceros's show There's Something About Marriage invites the audience to "join the debate" on the issue of same-sex marriage. In this raunchy, sometimes satirical, sometimes political, very silly, show, San Francisco's oldest gay theater company creates a sort of collage of thoughts about gay sexuality and the issue of same-sex marriage.

Structurally, the show is broken up into a few throughlines woven together.

One throughline consists of audience participation, led mainly by John Fisher (who also directs and created the show) and sometimes by Maryssa Wanlass. In the segments where Fisher and Wanlass talk directly to the audience, some of the dialogue comes from a dirty audience survey given out at the beginning of the show, and knowing I might get to talk to the actors (or win a prize!) certainly felt exciting. The purpose is to get the audience warmed-up, loosened-up, and involved, not to find out what we think.

There is also a story line exploring the dating history of two same-sex couples (one female, one male) who meet online. This throughline was interesting because it showed how we can think we know what we want in a partner yet be completely wrong about what we need. It's also interesting that the two couples end up having different views about whether they want to get married at all, showing a diversity of opinions, which helps to balance the show. In the story lines of the two couples, I enjoyed the acting by the company, particularly A.K. Conrad's ditzy, pop-culture-obsessed, flirtatious boy and Sara Moore's Midwestern, sort-of dorky, totally sincere character.

There is also a satirical bit about Gavin Newsom (played with appropriate broadness by Conrad), who legalized gay marriage in San Francisco in 2004. The sequences about Newsom make fun of him in a way that is true to sketch comedy, and explore the actual history of what happened. I enjoyed these sequences because they gave information about the politics of the issue and how sometimes controversial issues can galvanize not only those who want change but also those against the issue.

Worked into the live sequences is video, some of which is explicit. One video, credited to David Mahr, is a montage of same-sex weddings, while Mahr's song, "Stop the Gays," plays. The video has a documentary feeling, and the song, which is not completely pro-same-sex marriage, coupled with the video, again, gives the show diversity of opinion.