A very nontraditional play will be performed for the first time in Ottawa this month. The love story is familiar, but the circumstances are not, twisting religion and sexuality into a musical performance.
My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding will be staged at Centrepointe Theatre between May 10 and 13, for a total of five shows.
The musical, written by David Hein and Irene Carl Sankoff, is based on Hein’s own experiences.
The play’s narrator is David, whose mother, Claire, moves to Ottawa from Saskatchewan after divorcing her husband. Upon arriving in Ottawa, she rents a room from a lesbian graduate student in Sandy Hill. The student belongs to a choir, which also serves as a mini support group.
One of the choir members, Jane, takes Claire on a tour of Ottawa. Jane and Claire eventually fall in love. After Claire’s mother dies, she returns to Saskatchewan and struggles to tell her son about her new relationship.
Emily Veryard (left) plays Jane and Fiona Mackinnon is Claire.
Director Bob Lackey says there are many funny moments in play, including when Claire attempts to tell her son about her new partner without disclosing Jane’s sex.
“In the end, the son is completely comfortable with it,” Lackey says. “When the song is over, he essentially interrupts her and says, ‘Mom, it’s okay.’”
The musical uses projected images of Ottawa as part of the set to help the audience visualize the walk Jane and Claire take through Sandy Hill.
“It makes it personal; we can identify with everything that is going on,” says Karen Comber, one of the show’s producers.
The walk cements the pair’s relationship.
“There’s a love-at-first-sight, love-at-first-walk feeling,” Lackey says. “They end up at Parliament Hill looking over the Ottawa River. Claire learns that Jane is Wiccan, and she sings a song about what it’s like to be Wiccan, and during the song she has become attracted to Jane and at the end Claire initiates a kiss.”
First performed at the Toronto Fringe Festival in 2009, the play was picked up by Mirvish Productions and extended, running at the Panasonic Theatre in Toronto for more than three months, Lackey says.
“We’re hoping to capture the fringe festival feel to it,” he says. “Costumes are going to be minimalist, and the space and the studio is a perfect place, as it can’t be too elaborate.”
The play won Most Promising Musical and Outstanding Individual Performance (Liz Larsen) prizes at the 2010 New York Musical Theatre Festival awards. It was also recently nominated for Best Comedic Play at the Canadian Comedy Awards.
“I think this is an honest play,” says Comber. “There is humour and there are touching moments. It is about real life.”