Le Switch Review - Queer Theatre at Its Finest

 

(left to right) Collin Quinn Rice and Stephen Cone in About Face Theatre’s world premiere of LE SWITCH by Philip Dawkins, directed by Stephen Brackett. Photo by Michael Brosilow

 

About Face Theatre opens its 20th anniversary season with Le Switch, a world premiere romantic comedy by AFT Artistic Associate Philip Dawkins. Confronting issues of love, marriage, commitment, tradition, and queerness, this sweet exploration of gay male life after the legalization of same-sex marriage is funny, charming, and touching.  

 

(left to right) Stephen Cone and Collin Quinn Rice in About Face Theatre’s world premiere of LE SWITCH by Philip Dawkins, directed by Stephen Brackett. Photo by Michael Brosilow

 

Protagonist David has always been proud to be different; he and his twin sister Sarah have each vowed never to marry after growing up in shadow of their parents’ unhappy life together. Meanwhile, David’s best friend Zachary is planning his and his boyfriend’s wedding, a wedding that David skeptically believes he is jumping into too soon. On the night of Zachary’s bachelor party in Montreal, David meets adorable, bilingual florist Benoît and is swept off his feet. Guided by Zachary, Sarah, and David’s aging activist roommate Frank, the couple must confront their conflicting ideas of love and marriage to find their own version of happily ever after.

 

(left to right) Collin Quinn Rice and Stephen Cone in About Face Theatre’s world premiere of LE SWITCH by Philip Dawkins, directed by Stephen Brackett. Photo by Michael Brosilow

 

Philip Dawkins’ script is masterful. Its characters are lively and unique; its plot well-constructed and engaging; its ideas explored with a delicate touch and a critical eye. With the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in favor of gay marriage still fresh in American cultural consciousness, this play could not be any timelier, and the issues it confronts resonate deeply with queer and straight audiences alike. Many voices are brought to the table, with Frank representing an older generation of gay men and an alternative to traditional marriage; Benoît embracing the youthful and traditionally romantic; and Sarah queering marriage in her own way by participating in a green card marriage for the benefit of her brother’s college roommate. Simply put, this script encapsulates a broad range of ideas without ever becoming ham-fisted or preachy; the story and everyone in it is natural and appealing.

 

(left to right) Stephen Cone, Collin Quinn Rice, Elizabeth Ledo, Mitchell J. Fain and La Shawn Banks in About Face Theatre’s world premiere of LE SWITCH by Philip Dawkins, directed by Stephen Brackett. Photo by Michael Brosilow

 

The acting in this production is strong all around. Particular kudos must be given to young actor Collin Quinn Rice for their exquisite command of the intricacies of both French and English as a second language. Their interaction with Stephen Cone, who plays David, is particularly charming in its earnest sweetness. Cone captures the complexity of his character with great skill. Elizabeth Ledo brings great charisma to the quirky Sarah, and this brother-sister relationship is a close second to that of Benoît and David as the most captivating in the show. LaShawn Banks is nothing short of fabulous as Zachary, and Mitchell J. Fain brings a soft humanity to the wisecracking Frank.

 

(left to right) Collin Quinn Rice and Stephen Cone in About Face Theatre’s world premiere of LE SWITCH by Philip Dawkins, directed by Stephen Brackett. Photo by Michael Brosilow

 

Joe Schermoly’s set design is another lovely element of this production; a unit set successfully transitions with a few clever tricks from a New York City apartment to a Montreal flower shop, a mountaintop, a park bench, and more. Stephen Brackett's staging is elegant as well, creating stage pictures that are pleasing to the eye and important to the storytelling.  

 

(left to right) Stephen Cone and Collin Quinn Rice in About Face Theatre’s world premiere of LE SWITCH by Philip Dawkins, directed by Stephen Brackett. Photo by Michael Brosilow

 

Le Switch is queer theatre at its finest. Philip Dawkins has delivered yet another exceptional script, and About Face has risen to the occasion of producing it to the highest degree of quality. This is absolutely a show worth seeing.

 

Ticket Information

Location:  Theater Wit1229 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago

Dates:  Saturday, January 23 – Sunday, February 21, 2016

Curtain Times: Wednesday, Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm

Tickets: $35 adults/$20 students & seniors. Discounts available for groups of 10 or more. Tickets are available at the About Face websiteby calling (773) 404-7336 or in person at Theater Wit Box Office.

 

 

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