It’s the getting there that proves to be the challenge for “yes man” Abdul (Sachin Jain) and the watchful, visibly pregnant Miriam (Rachel Silvert), who love each other dearly and need to be married before their baby is born.
An overview: due to new laws in Jerusalem following the Six-Day War, there will be problems with a Muslim man like Abdul trying to marry a Jewish woman like Miriam if they already have a baby together. Additionally, Abdul will have to be able to support Miriam and the baby. Abdul should and will tell anyone anything they want to hear in order to make this happen.
Thus, when a Jew, a Catholic, and a Protestant walk into this Fringe play, Abdul sees an opportunity for profit, since they are all members of the American Congress who will be staying at his inn. The play cleverly toys with a trope of hospitality, as Abdul boisterously confides in each legislator that, despite his Arabic background, he is indeed a member of their religion. He feeds the news to Catholic Congressman Coonihan (DJ Doherty) along with some Irish whiskey, he schpiels the “truth” to Jewish Congresswoman Abramowitz (Terry Nicholetti) paired with red wine, and he serves whatever nonsense and non-alcoholic drink will satisfy the mostly non-interesting Protestant Congresswoman Pettigrew (Sarah Pullen).
We see each of these characters?“representatives” of both their US government and respective religion?make a pitch for why their religion is the best. In a Jerusalem hotel, no less, Abdul must play host to American government figures and milk every penny he can out of them while he is engaged to an expecting Jewish woman that is growing larger physically with their child and largely annoyed with him. Perhaps we are supposed to sympathize with Abdul’s character not only for the immediate conflicts he finds himself from the outset of this play, but also for the greater political consequences of the Six Days War and Jewish occupation with American aid.
Perhaps not, though, as Abdul is eternally optimistic and motivated by his love of Miriam ahead of anything else. Writer Carl Frandsen doesn’t really play this up in the script and that made it more intriguing for the audience to consider. Either way, Sachin Jain was great as this urgent go-getter of a character scrambles all over the stage to get his life wed-fully in tact.
At times, the play is far-fetched. That’s fine, but Making Love Legal can also be didactic in its far-fetched style. It would be wrong to say “preachy,” given the play’s portrayal of religion as a potentially major hurdle on the way to getting married. However, Making Love Legal loses something by arguing too loudly for an improved societal treatment of people that are in love and want to be married. It’s almost as if it’s trying to “make its point legal” instead of leaving it all on the line and letting the audience do the difficult work of interpretation. It isn’t fun to hear characters talk about how corrupt marriage practices are, however corrupt they may be.
I recognize that this issue is very applicable to our current political moment, as same-sex marriages in the U.S. are legally recognized in some places while completely forbidden in others. This makes the play relevant, as director Sara Schabach points out in the play’s program. Nevertheless, this is a play where true love wins in spite of difficult obstacles that give the audience a laugh along the way. In the real world, it’s much more cut and dried: if you wanted to get legally married to your partner in Mississippi, the state where Congresswoman Pettigrew is from, you’d have to move to the state where Congressman Coonihan is from, Massachusetts. There isn’t much to laugh about this.
This play is enjoyable as a farcical comedy with several strong performances. It is definitely great for those in a whimsical mood looking for a script informed by an outstanding sense for the dramatic. Yet Making Love Legal is not, unfortunately, the triumphant statement about marriage it wants to be.
Making Love Legal has 3 performances, ending July 28, 2012, at Warehouse, 645 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC.
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Ross rates this 3 out of a possible 5.