Making Love Legal is clearly a labor of love. Sara Schabach, a first-time director, and her cast infused every odd-ball scene with enthusiasm. It is an ambitious and sensitive topic to explore and perhaps farce is the sanest medium. And not just farce, but a Shakespearean farce. The servant Ibrahim (Courtney Vinson) walks onstage to deliver the prologue in iambic pentameter about two star crossed lovers, Abdul (Sachin Jain) and Miriam (Rachel Silvert) who want to get married, particularly because Miriam is very pregnant, but it is illegal in Israel in 1967 when the play is set. When 3 American congress people (Sarah Pullen, DJ Doherty, and Terry Nicholetti) come for a visit, Abdul hatches a scheme to get the money to get out. Hijinks ensue. If you’re not a Shakespeare fan, don’t worry, the play returns to modern English with the main characters, though that sense of drama and a life out of control that Shakespeare put into his comedies remains. Playwright Carl Frandsen captures it well.
The 1967 setting works. It helps to smooth over any potential offense for poking fun at a situation that is still fraught. We can look back on these lovingly-portrayed caricatures and laugh when the necessary stereotypes may have been less funny in a modern setting. The first half of the play is hilarious magic as Abdul and Miriam pretend to be Jewish (on Abdul’s part), and then Catholic and then Baptist to win over the congress people. The best scene comes when he attempts to wine and dine them…without drinking the wine. Each congress person is fundamentally good, just a little nearsighted and it is a delight to watch Abdul run rings around them. (And for Miriam to run rings around Abdul).
Sachin Jain shines in the role of the scheming innkeeper and besotted fiancé. Had this been the whole of it, it would have been enough, but things get a little over the top as the congress people leave and Abdul somehow traps the prime minister of Israel into dressing up as a Catholic priest to perform a fake marriage before fleeing to a convent. It comes out of nowhere and the play ceases to be an exploration of the different religions and prejudices we all hold and becomes just a gag, though it returns to the central story by the end.
It’s an odd note in an otherwise well executed and acted play that does paint quite a good picture of how ridiculous old laws seem that were once a foregone conclusion. Go see the energetic performances and obvious care put into this production – and for an amusing look at falling in love and bumping into religion.
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