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God of Carnage

When Joey Married Bobby

This airy work about a Southern gay wedding never lives up to either its farcical or politically explosive potential.

By New York City
Matthew Pender, William Yoder,
and Tina McKissick in
When Joey Married Bobby
(© Delgar)
Matthew Pender, William Yoder,
and Tina McKissick in
When Joey Married Bobby
(© Delgar)
When Joey Married Bobby, which has moved uptown for an extended run at the Roy Arias Theatre, is premised on the volatile scenario of a gay marriage in a conservative southern family. So while one might expect real fireworks from author William Wyatt, the result is little more than a gay variation on Father of the Bride. It's amusingly airy fare, but the work does not live up to either the farcical or politically explosive potential of its set-up.

The play begins with Nancy Reagan lookalike Sarah Edwards (Tina McKissick) juggling her joint responsibilities in organizing the church Christmas pageant and preparing for the gay wedding of her son Joey (Matthew Pender), to which she has invited nearly 500 guests to their home, including several members of the former Bush administration. All the while, she is also desperate to be crowned "Christian of the Year" by the church selection committee, headed by the minister's wife Charity Divine (Lady Bunny).

As the play progresses, the mother of the groom becomes increasingly harried by the criticisms of her mother-in-law Ivy (Deborah Johnstone), the penny-pinching of her husband Eddie (Collin Biddle), and the surprise arrival of Henry (Richard James Porter), a down-on-his-luck homeless man brought in by Sarah's liberal do-gooder daughter Sally Joe (Rebecca Dealy).

Lady Bunny is hilarious as Charity Divine, but Charity's downright joy at the prospect of attending a gay wedding seems out of step with her gun-toting, 700 Club-watching, Sarah Palin-loving character. Further, it completely misses the comically golden opportunity of having a homophobic drag queen as an antagonist. The authors actually seem content that there are no real villains in this happy-go-lucky story.

Still, a bit of gravity is added to the proceedings in the form of Joey's best man Dan (William Yoder), who has been living with AIDS for several years and who mysteriously credits Joey with saving his life; the details of this anecdote are never really illuminated. Since the eponymous Bobby never actually appears on stage, this has the peculiar and perhaps unintended effect of thrusting Dan into the role of Joey's romantic foil. The audience simply gets to know and like Dan better than Joey's shadowy husband-to-be. Moreover, the scene between Dan and Ivy, who is in the early stages of Alzheimer's, is truly touching and deftly acted by both Yoder and Johnstone.

John William Gibson's costumes are stunningly colorful, demonstrating an acute eye for the fashion trends of the American political class. Indeed, a well-placed scarf or a glitzy piece of jewelry adds far more depth to the proceedings than the script ever does.


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