Not as good as it could be

January 31, 1998|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

Half of David Mills' "The Wedding Banned" is his enactment of an imaginary TV movie. But most of this one-man show -- `D receiving its East Coast premiere at the Theatre Project -- feels as superficial as a movie of the week and as silly as a sitcom.

That's a problem for a show that deals with a serious subject -- marriage and the gay community.

Extrapolating from his personal feelings about the wedding of Sharon, a heterosexual friend, Mills intercuts scenes from her wedding with scenes from the make-believe movie, which is called "The Wedding Banned" and is about a gay marriage.

The movie, which stars Meredith Baxter, Lee Majors, LL Cool J, Shannen Doherty and Mills (all of whom he portrays), is so melodramatic, it's ludicrous. And Mills' imitations of the stars turn the melodrama into comedy.

Yet Mills' tone is appropriate for this part of the piece, because his point is that if the major networks actually dared to produce a movie endorsing this issue, they'd drain its social and political content by turning it into yet another ridiculous tear-jerker.

Mills' delivery overall, however, undercuts the impact of his show. When he isn't impersonating TV stars, he declaims -- occasionally shouting for emphasis. The result comes closer to a stand-up routine than theater. Granted, he has some genuinely funny lines. (One favorite: "I'm just a tired, secondhand fashion .. plate calling myself retro instead of cheap.")

But the emotional core of the piece -- which is more about gays' reactions to straight weddings than about gay weddings themselves -- is largely absent. When Mills does provide brief glimpses into his own heart, they hint at the depth this hourlong piece could achieve.

There's a rather touching reference to praying to the patron saint of gays before attending his friend Sharon's wedding. And later, Sharon proves to be so callous about Mills' feelings, she seems to have turned into a Stepford wife.

These moving moments -- combined with Mills' talent for humor -- demonstrate this San Francisco-based performer's potential. But just as his made-for-TV movie settles for shlock instead of true meaning, Mills himself settles for shtick. The result is a little like a wedding reception that makes do with cookies and punch instead of a full meal.

'The Wedding Banned'

Where: Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St.

When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays; through Feb. 8

Tickets: $14

Call: 410-752-8558

Pub Date: 2/01/98

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