Thursday, July 31, 2003

'Avow' uses gay characters to look at relationships

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Stephen Martin (left), and Michael Monks star in Avow, about a gay pair who hope a priest will marry them.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
Avow: 1. to declare openly or admit frankly, according to Webster's New World Dictionary.

When you separate the syllables, "a vow" becomes 1. a solemn promise or pledge, especially one made to God, dedicating oneself to an act, service or way of life.

Both these definitions are very much on the mind and in the work of playwright Bill C. Davis in Avow, which gets its Cincinnati premiere this weekend and next with the Ovation Theatre Company at the Aronoff Center's Fifth Third Bank Theater.

Avow hits the hot-button topics of gay marriage and the Roman Catholic Church, although Ovation artistic director and Avow director Joe Stollenwerk chose the play long before the current headlines.

"We picked Avow even before Rosie O'Donnell came out. It seems almost another lifetime ago," Stollenwerk says.

Playwright Davis previously looked at Roman Catholic issues with Broadway hit Mass Appeal more than 20 years ago. In Avow, he explores the testing of vows.

What: Avow

When: 8 p.m. today-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Aug. 9

Where: Ovation Theatre Company, Aronoff Center Fifth Third Bank Theater

Tickets: $15, $12.50 seniors, $10 students. Tonight is a pay-what-you-can preview.

Information: 241-7469.

A young gay couple want to be married within the church, and they hope their liberal parish priest will perform the ceremony. One of them has a pregnant, unmarried and career-minded sister who intends to turn her baby over to them to raise.

Among the many, many complications: the priest's reluctance; the men's differing attitudes toward the edicts of their religion; the sister and the priest's mutual attraction; and a confounded mother who doesn't understand either of her children's lifestyles.

"It's not just a gay play - not that that would be a bad thing," says Stollenwerk. "It deals with issues of family, religion, self-acceptance and love that anyone can relate to.

"The fact that a lot of it deals with two gay men is a bonus for me since, in 20 plays Ovation has produced, we've never done a play that dealt with gay leading characters."

Gay issues are on stage to stay, Stollenwerk believes. He points to popular gay characters on prime-time TV and new Bravo phenom Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. It all helps more people become more comfortable with gays, says Stollenwerk.

The cast includes Michelle Becker, A. Jackson Ford, Stephen Martin, Mary Jo McClain, Michael Monks, Dennis Murphy and Barbara Sorenson.


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