- Chief New York Theatre Critic
- Outer Critics Circle
Ezra’s (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) stories about his father’s reaction to the news that Ezra was marrying Chris (Phillip James Brannon) and then, later, that they were going to have a baby serve as bookends for Jordan Harrison’s LGBTQ themed new play about “our origins” and how “denying our origins is not healthy nor is denying our children the right to discover who they are and how the will relate to the world.” Friends Jules (Dolly Wells) and Pam (Cindy Cheung) quickly “judge” Ezra’s father; yet, as the ninety-minute play moves forward, the audience – LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ – understands these two married couples are far from having grappled with the complexities of where they are, where they have come from, and where they are going as members of the LGBTQ community that barely understand their small niches let alone understanding “the other.”
Whatever their prior “struggles,” these two couples are now successful, comfortable, and mostly enjoying their assimilated lives. Jules and Pam want to have a baby and hope Ezra can be the sperm donor. “A short year later,” Ezra and Chris visit their friends and their baby Hartley and are ready to parent! They convince their pre-op trans (female-to-male) Henry (Ian Harvie) to carry their baby to term. Henry admits, “Technically. I mean I have a uterus. But it’s not really [an option]. I’d have to go off the T.” Eventually Henry agrees to carry the baby and to co-parent.
During this drama, Jules cheats on Pam, Chris cheats on Ezra and Myna (Talene Monahon) leaves Henry. Postmodern LGBTQ success tumbles in upon itself and the underbelly of the commonality of humanity is unmasked. Infidelity, falling out of love, divorce, inequality, sexism, racism, homophobia, and the history of the struggle for equality are parsed ad infinitum without resolution. The attempt at metacognition and grappling with how these five “outsiders” arrived at their “present” is mostly lost on griping. Nonetheless, the arguments themselves are relevant and timely. The problem is that these five do not want to deal with their pasts – the “log cabin” in all our histories – in any significant way. Adlai Stevenson once bragged: "I wasn't born in a log cabin. I didn't work my way through school nor did I rise from rags to riches, and there's no use trying to pretend I did." That “confession lost the presidential election to Dwight D. Eisenhower. Pretense does not lead to victory.
Under Pam MacKinnon’s direction, the superb cast enlivens Jordan Harrison’s script as he meanders through perhaps too many issues for one play. The strength of his play lies not in the bickering of the adults, but in the musings of the Babies. When the Babies chatter with their parents, with one another, or think to themselves, the script sparkles and the action on the stage brightens. The convention of having adults play the parts of infants and being able to “hear” their thoughts works well in “Log Cabin” and it is out of the mouths of these babes that the significant conversations erupt.
Jules’s Baby and Henry’s Baby “understand” the future of the LGBTQ community might look much different than it does currently. Jules’s Baby says, “Hardly. Because then another sort of pair came along. New sorts of pairs. And they weren’t boy and girl exactly. Or they weren’t but also they were.” The infant’s wisdom deepens: “But then something happened, and they remembered. Something awful happened and the floor fell away. And the boy and the boy, and the girl and the girl, were reminded how far there was to go.”
Humankind believe sincerely that it currently understands and accepts “the another” and the global community marches with that intent. “Log Cabin” raises the rich and enduring questions that dig deeply with surgical precision and exactitude: “What are the stories we have created, are creating? What are our children’s stories going to be like as they watch us struggle for meaning, acceptance, and civility?” It seems that unless these questions are addressed, the future itself might “fall away.”
The cast of “Log Cabin” features Phillip James Brannon, Cindy Cheung, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ian Harvie, Talene Monahon, and Dolly Wells.
The production features scenic design by Allen Moyer, costume design by Jessica Pabst, lighting design by Russell H. Champa, and sound design by Leah Gelpe. Production Stage Manager is Amanda Spooner. Production photos by Joan Marcus.
“Log Cabin” plays at Playwrights Horizons (416 West 42nd Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues) on the following performance schedule: Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Single tickets, $44.00-$99.00, may be purchased online via www.phnyc.org, by phone at 212-279-4200 (Noon-8:00 p.m. daily) and in person at the Box Office. Running time is 90 minutes without intermission.
Photo: Cindy Cheung, Dolly Wells, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Phillip James Brannon. Credit: Joan Marcus.