Culture Magazine

Review: Le Switch (About Face Theatre)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: Le Switch (About Face Theatre)  
  
  

Le Switch

Written by Philip Dawkins
at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map)
thru Feb 21  |  tix: $20-$35  | more info
  
Check for half-price tickets  
  


  

  

Funny, well-acted world premiere looks at flip-side
of getting what you want

  

Review: Le Switch (About Face Theatre)

  

About Face Theatre presents

  

Le Switch

Review by Clint May 

Those in the gay community who wished to avoid marriage—please don’t call them "commitmentphobic" and I won’t call the married "monophobic"—enjoyed a de facto sense of security because no matter what, they just simply couldn’t get married. Now all that has changed at breakneck speed. As one comedian put it (and I’m paraphrasing) "My mother used to be on my case about being gay. Now she’s on me about getting married." In Philip Dawkins‘ new romantic comedy, the familiar gay tropes must react to the switch in their own unique way. Though it treads on familiar ground and some on-the-nose metaphors, About Face’s world premiere is a winsome and clever look at love in the time of redefinition.

Review: Le Switch (About Face Theatre)
David (Stephen Cone) is very concerned about the ‘aboutness’ of things. He’s a cusp millennial (like myself, born between 1977-1983 by some demographer’s accounting) working as a professor of library sciences in NYC. Categories and organization are very important to him. As a self-defined "queer," he’s perplexed by the gay community’s desire to adopt a heteronormative tradition like marriage. It’s 2011 and New York has just started allowing gays to marry, and he’s particularly baffled that his most flamboyant of childhood friends, Zachary (La Shawn Banks), is hopping on the bandwagon.

As the best man, David begrudgingly agrees to go to Montreal for Zachary’s bachelor party. He’s fresh out of yet another few-months relationship with a "perfect" guy, and he grasps at the idea that it’s because he must attend to his surrogate father Frank (Mitchell Fain). Frank and his now-deceased partner took care of him when his own father wouldn’t and he is both repaying the debt and using him as an excuse to avoid confessing why he doesn’t want long term relationships. His twin sister Sarah (Elizabeth Ledo) understands that to an extent, her "little brudda’s" reluctance stems from seeing their own parent’s marriage fall apart.

Obviously, this being a romantic comedy, there’s going to be a meet cute. At a flower shop in Montreal, David falls instantly and helplessly for the young Benoît (Collin Quinn Rice), a bi-lingual cutie who sure knows how to make a double entendre out of the word “straddling” (it should be noted here that the eponymous “switching” refers to moving between French and English, a categorial affront to David’s librarian psyche). He’s everything David wants, but can he—should he—let the right one in?

Act two flashes forward to 2014. Zachary’s already experiencing marital troubles. Sarah’s pregnant with the baby of a man she never expected to love. Frank is still saucy but feeling a relic as the world he fought for progresses around him and he can’t figure out how to recognize it. David and Benoît are still a couple, but the relative comfort of a long distance relationship is about to be upended.

Review: Le Switch (About Face Theatre)
Review: Le Switch (About Face Theatre)

Several of Dawkins’ embellishments may seem over-the-top in pointing out the pointed. One example: David collects unopened books in an obvious nod to his unwillingness to be open to certain experiences (though he states he likes their mystery). All of these characters fall into well-established gay/romantic comedy types, but it’s all pretty forgivable given how buoyantly and naturally the cast inhabits them under Stephen Brackett‘s graceful direction. These people have a lived-in chemistry that elevates some of the harder-to-sell epiphanies or clunkier expositional dialog. There’s a second act loss of urgency and some of the better humor that could be fixed in a rewrite.

Review: Le Switch (About Face Theatre)
Humorous moments eschew sitcomesque banality and flow naturally out of the characters, while a few cinematic touches add some of the best laughs (listen to how sound designer Paul Perry evokes the sound of a cigarette being rolled—it’s perfection). The always great Joe Schermoly crafts another ingenious set with a great Laugh-In inspired gag reveal. Cone and Rice craft a very believable chemistry that endears and keeps David from becoming unsympathetic or Benoît cloying. Fain’ is at his usual perfection, able to balance haughty cynicism with gut-wrenching sincerity almost at the same time.

Whatever your views on marriage, some early data suggests that homosexual pairings have a lot to teach the establishment about how to make relationships last (summary: it’s all in the fighting style). Freed from the traditional roles—categories, if you will—homosexuals are crafting their own definition despite anyone’s fears of losing identity. Le Switch embraces many views with aplomb and may prove as popular as Dawkins’ previous The Homosexuals or last year’s Charm. He’s a compassionate writer who considers many angles without judgment, and that alone makes this worth recommending.

  

Rating: ★★★

  

  

Le Switch continues through February 21st at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map), with performances Wednesdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $35 (students & seniors: $20), and are available by phone (773-975-8150) or online at TheaterWit.org (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at AboutFaceTheatre.org. 
(Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes, includes an intermission)

Review: Le Switch (About Face Theatre)

Photos by Michael Brosilow 


  

artists

cast

Mitchell Fain (Frank), Elizabeth Ledo (Sarah), La Shawn Banks (Zachary), Stephen Cone (David), Collin Quinn Rice (Benoît), Abbas Salem, Alison Plott, Rus Rainear (understudies)

behind the scenes

Stephen Brackett (director), Joe Schermoly (scenic design), David Hyman (costume design), Sarah Hughey (lighting design), Paul Perry (sound design), Helen Lattyak (stage manager), Gus Schlanbusch (asst. director), Alex Beal (asst. stage manager), Michael Brosilow (photos)

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