Review: ‘My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding’ a delight at Actors’ Summit

By Kerry Clawson
Beacon Journal staff writer

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Dawn Sniadak-Yomokoski, left, Kevin P. Kern and Lindsey Mitchell in My Mothers Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding, an Actor's Summit production opens on Friday, November 30th and runs through Sunday, December 23rd at Greystone Hall in downtown Akron. (Actors Summit )
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The preposterous-sounding title My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding certainly grabs your attention.

But the core of the musical’s story — about finding and honoring true, fulfilling love — isn’t preposterous at all. Actors’ Summit has chosen a winner in its holiday slot with this heartfelt tale, which rings with authenticity because it’s based on the true story of co-creator David Hein’s family.

The play, which begins in wintry Ottawa, Ontario, in 1990, is loaded with warmth and humor as adult David, played by the guitar-toting Kevin Kern, narrates the tale of his mother’s transition from a messy divorce in Nebraska to finding love with a woman named Jane in Canada.

The high-energy Kern, a theater professor at Mount Union, sets the musical’s fun-loving tone as he sings “This is a story about hot, lesbian sex — and my mom.”

The irreverently funny musical, co-written by Hein and Irene Sankoff in 2009, was the hit of the 2010 New York Musical Theater Festival, and this is its regional premiere. Its unique brand of humor manages to poke fun at those who are opposed to or ignorant of gay rights, while bringing alive a touching story of one woman’s journey to wholeness.

The musical comedy has off-color humor but there’s nothing prurient onstage. Because of mature themes, the show is recommended for ages 17 or older.

The actors and singers deftly skewer lesbian and Canadian stereotypes in the song Hot Lesbian Action, whose main attraction is decidedly unsexy flannel “Canadian lingerie.”

The authors’ humor and heart reach to the core of universal human needs for love, understanding and respect.

His mother, Claire, played by the beautiful and vocally talented Lindsey Mitchell, accepts a new job as professor of psychology at the University of Ottawa in an attempt to break with her painful past. Her son David, played by Aurora High School sophomore Daniel Sovich, soon joins her.

Extremely minimalist staging — basically just the stage platform — challenges the cast to make its world come alive in our mind’s eye. The song Ottawa’s lyrics allow us to vividly imagine the city’s icy downtown during Winter Fest, where ice skaters gather and where Parliament Hill becomes the backdrop for protests in support of gay marriage.

Through adult David, our trusty narrator, we learn that Canada legalized gay marriage in 2005, six years before New York did. He and the chorus take us through A Short History of Gay Marriage; throughout the dramatic song, the chorus, made up of Zach Griffin, Megan Brautigam, Sovich and Keith Stevens, repeat the lyric “Legalize love.”

Excellent ensemble singing marks a lesbian chorus rehearsal, where Griffin and Stevens don crazy wigs and Stevens sings in a wacky falsetto. Also hilarious is a scene spoofing Hooters, led by the adorable Brautigam as well as young Sovich in drag. The Hooters setting becomes a perfectly improbable place for adult David’s love interest Irene (Hope Caldwell) to meet David’s two moms for the first time.

The musical’s 24 tunes range from witty and self-referential songs to heartbreaking ballads, including Nebraska, in which Claire reveals how much pain she’s been hanging onto.

Dawn Sniadak-Yamokoski creates a passionate portrayal of Jane, who helps Claire get in touch with her emotions. Jane’s lines are the warmest and most poetic in the script.

It’s a credit to both the musical’s writing and the spot-on direction by Neil Thackaberry that this show parodies the earthiness of lesbian Jane, a Wiccan in close touch with her natural surroundings, but she is never mocked.

Her character brings out important lessons about finding oneself instead of running away from a painful past, and facing your disappointments and mistakes so you can move on. References are made to the holidays but in My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding, Claire finds her way back to her roots in Judaism.

This loving, entertaining story is performed with such humor and heart, it’s a treat you won’t want to miss at Actors’ Summit.

Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or kclawson@thebeaconjournal.com.


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