Monday, October 15, 2012

Play Review: Dustin Lance Black's "8"

An extended, more formal version of this review can be found in the October issue of the Florissant Valley Community College's student newspaper, the Forum. This issue is due to hit stands across campus next week.

Dustin Lance Black's stage play "8", performed recently at the Fischer Theatre on Florissant Valley campus, is based on transcripts from the California case Perry v. Schwarzenegger as well as interviews and eyewitness observations of these events. As the play opens, the case is entering closing arguments as both sides state their final case on the issue at hand: marriage equality. 

The Perry v. Schwarzenegger case was a response to the passing of Proposition 8 in 2008, which made same-sex marriage illegal in California. Claiming that the law was unconstitutional and a violation of civil rights, two couples sued to have the proposition declared illegal. 

The play closely follows one couple in particular, Sandy Stier and Kristin Perry, and their two sons as they watch the proceedings from the sidelines. The original production of the play featured A-list celebrities and was performed in Los Angeles.

I found the production of “8” incredibly moving and powerful, especially the acting and production. The usage of the video screens to show actual pro-Prop 8 advertisements from 2008 between scenes was very effective and showed the actual atmosphere the couples against the proposition were up against. Setting up the stage as a mock courtroom, complete with judge's bench and official seals, was a perfect staging of the play. Both sides of the marriage equality debate were presented, although the play “8” operates with the purpose of a pro-marriage equality agenda. 

My favorite part of the play is when the individuals stood apart from the narrative of the play and directly told their stories to the audience. Having those breakaway moments made the scope of the play more intimate and more human in nature, rather than just relying on court transcripts to tell the story. The only thing I didn't like about “8” was the question and answer segment afterward – it felt unplanned and awkward – but aside from that, the play itself was a huge hit across the board.

A recording of the original stage reading of “8”, featuring celebrities such as Martin Sheen and George Clooney, can be seen at the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) official website:

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