MY FAVORITE HUSBANDS, the opening show of Quince Productions’ sixth annual LGBT Festival, begins like one of those self-mocking drag comedies beloved by audiences everywhere: a big, burly, hairy-but-bald guy is trying to stuff himself into a shockingly ugly violet chiffon gown. But, nice surprise: this political rom-com by Andrew Marvel turns out to be a real play with real characters and real ideas.
The pivotal character, the guy in drag, is Mark (Thomas-Robert Irvin), and the occasion for the dress is the wedding of his former lover John (Jeff Hunsicker) to a New Jersey state assemblyman (NJ seems to press the same auto-laugh button as drag). Raul (Joel Guerrero in a standout performance) is the latest poster-boy of the Republicans—a gay Latino—and thus the wedding guest list is chock full of celebrities: Chris Christie, Donald Rumsfeld, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Left on the sidelines is Tristan (Angel J. Sigala), Mark’s young Latino lover, who is embarrassed by drag and thrilled by the history-making significance of legal gay marriages.
The emotional issues are all the obvious ones but mostly jealousy; the political issues are all the obvious ones, but mostly scandal; the psychological issues are all the obvious ones, but mostly generational. Mark and John remember the struggles and the risks of the bad old days when they were all young and brave together. But where John, dapper and relaxed, is moving forward, Mark is trapped by agonizing nostalgia and a dated, anti-bourgeois stance.
And just when you’re thinking that the two Latino guys should get together—their asides to each other are in Spanish—you realize that cliché ethnicity is not the point at all; this is a play about the illogicalities of love.
The production has both the charm and the drawbacks of theater festival shoestring in the costuming (John Hodges) and the set (Christopher Haddad), but under Rich Rubin’s direction, the scenes move briskly and engagingly along. Marvel’s dialogue is sometimes thin, as if he had stretched a short play into a long play, but MY FAVORITE HUSBANDS is both interesting and enjoyable, and a fine launch for GayFest.
[Studio X, 13th & Reed streets] August 19-27, 2016; quinceproductions.com.
GayFest! has a roster of three more plays performed in a complicated schedule through August 27: Harbor, by Chad Beeuelin, Wolves by Steve Yockey,and MMF by David L. Kimple, plus The Bang Group in “Stuck on You” and a selection of other one-night-only performances.