Abraham Lincoln Was a F*gg*t Review - Gay Comedy Is Full of Laughs, Short on Insight

ALWAF-1 (left to right) Jessie Fisher, Lane Flores, Matt Farabee, Nathan Hosner and Derrick Trumbly in About Face Theatre’s Chicago premiere of ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS A F*GG*T by Bixby Elliot, directed by Andrew Volkoff. Photo by Michael Brosilow.



About Face Theatre continues its 2014-15 season with the Chicago premiere of Bixby Elliot’s Abraham Lincoln Was a F*gg*t, the story of high school student Cal, who is determined to prove that his favorite president was gay, just like him. Although deeply funny and occasionally touching, the play falls short of providing any genuinely fresh insight into the state of gay rights in the U. S.

 

ALWAF-3 (left to right) Matt Farabee, Jessie Fisher and Nathan Hosner in About Face Theatre’s Chicago premiere of ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS A F*GG*T by Bixby Elliot, directed by Andrew Volkoff. Photo by Michael Brosilow.



The show opens with Cal (Matt Farabee) delivering a speech on Lincoln in Washington, D. C., with a "sign language translation" of some of the inappropriate words he might use in his speech setting the tone for the type of high-energy, slightly edgy humor that was the most enjoyable element of the production. Dana Black, who played a number of minor characters throughout the show, performed this sign language with great aplomb, and indeed, her commitment to bold physical and vocal choices with each of her characters, even the most commonplace ones, made her a comedic highlight of the production.

 

ALWAF-5 (left to right) Matt Farabee, Derrick Trumbly, Nathan Hosner and Dana Black in About Face Theatre’s Chicago premiere of ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS A F*GG*T by Bixby Elliot, directed by Andrew Volkoff. Photo by Michael Brosilow.



The play interweaves Cal's story with the story of Lincoln as seen through Cal's eyes; Lincoln's romances with other men, his search for his own identity, and his struggle to connect with an important woman in his life (for Abe, Mary Todd; for Cal, his mother; both are played with great skill by Jessie Fisher) are intentionally paralleled through double casting and split scenes, some of them weighed down by the playwright's heavy-handed duplications of dialogue.

 

ALWAF-6 (left to right) Nathan Hosner and Derrick Trumbly in About Face Theatre’s Chicago premiere of ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS A F*GG*T by Bixby Elliot, directed by Andrew Volkoff. Photo by Michael Brosilow.



Transitions and important moments of the show are accented by the cast singing and dancing to songs by Michael Jackson, songs that had at best a tenuous connection to the subject matter of the play but which were certainly fun to watch. The romance between Cal and his love interest Skylor was played charmingly well by actors Matt Farabee and Lane Flores, and their bubbly puppy-love energy brightened up some of the play’s darker moments.

 

ALWAF-2 (left to right) Lane Flores, Matt Farabee, Nathan Hosner, Dana Black and Jessie Fisher in About Face Theatre’s Chicago premiere of ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS A F*GG*T by Bixby Elliot, directed by Andrew Volkoff. Photo by Michael Brosilow.



Where the show fell short was in delivering its ultimate message. While Cal's quest to find himself reflected in the life of Abraham Lincoln was compelling, the relationship troubles between Cal's Uncle Geoff and his boyfriend Buck were lackluster and based in tired tropes about gay men. Ultimately, the play did not seem to have much to say about being gay in America other than that it's difficult and often ends in tragedy, a message echoing so many other plays that it lacked emotional impact. Indeed, the plot, characters, and themes of the show were so similar to that of The Pride, produced at About Face in 2013, that I had to double-check that they were not by the same author. As a theatre explicitly dedicated to LGBTQ themes, About Face could perhaps stand to branch out more in its selection of plays.

 

ALWAF-4 (left to right) Nathan Hosner and Matt Farabee in About Face Theatre’s Chicago premiere of ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS A F*GG*T by Bixby Elliot, directed by Andrew Volkoff. Photo by Michael Brosilow.



Overall, attending About Face's Abraham Lincoln Was a F*gg*t was an enjoyable way to spend an evening. While the show was not as groundbreaking, as I hoped it would be, it does offer an interesting look at the ways that history is constructed and reconstructed.  And there were lots of opportunities to laugh.

 

Location:  Greenhouse Theater Center (Upstairs Studio), 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago

Dates:  Friday, June 12 – Sunday, July 5, 2015

Curtain Times: Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 pm; Saturdays at 3 pm & 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm.

Tickets: $35 adults/$20 students & seniors. Discounts available for groups of 10 or more. Tickets are currently on sale, by calling (773) 404-7336 or in person at the Greenhouse Theater Center Box Office.

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