Chicago Theater Review: LE SWITCH (About Face Theatre at Theater Wit)

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by Lawrence Bommer on January 23, 2016

in Theater-Chicago


Many, many gay plays since Stonewall have pitted fidelity against promiscuity, love against sex, and, nowadays, marriage against friendship. Same-sex weddings have clearly intensified the painful choice between “sexual outlaw” and legal spouse. If children aren’t reason enough to keep folks together after sex wears thin, is sheer devotion? If it is, do they even need a marriage certificate to hold them fast? Or is a formal yoking the kiss of death for a continued connection?


Commitment—the term fits a lunatic asylum as much as a lifelong liaison… Then there’s the issue of jealousy, which inflicts much more harm to a marriage, when it endangers vows and legacies, than to a friendship with benefits, where one partner merely alters an experiment in mutual masturbation.

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.

Except for the challenges of coming out, relationship phobia remains the favorite subject—and conflict—of gay comedy. A cunning character drama from Philip Dawkins (The Homosexuals, Charm, Failure: A Love Story), Le Switch takes 140 minutes and three years (2011-2014) to tackle the topic.


In Dawkins’ diverting drama, a world premiere from About Face Theatre, his anti-hero David (Stephen Cone) is a 35-year-old Jewish antiquarian/librarian from Manhattan. Approaching a mid-life crisis, David is soon to be the best man at the wedding of his bud and mentor Zachary (La Shawn Banks), a once free spirit now sinking into respectability. David is equally influenced by his twin sister Sarah (Elizabeth Ledo)–I did not say “fag hag”! She’s a video gamer who too easily escapes into fantasy—and, now steeped in passion for an equally unseen partner, will soon be pregnant. Finally, David’s equally book-loving roommate Frank (ever wry Mitchell J. Fain) provides a more mature, if acerbic, viewpoint on the higher stakes at play today.


All this sharp-edged feedback (some of it a tad slick and glib) confuses David all the more: If he marries it will be for love, not the law. He’s allergic to conformity and, regrettably, not without some cautionary and inhibiting self-hatred. This independent soul does not want to be “hetero-normative,” traditional, or predictable. Mired in this fear of feeling, David barely believes that he’s lived or loved (as he puts it, he’s not queer enough), let alone earned the right to settle down in single bliss.

LeSwitch-6So, of course, Dawkins tests doubtful David against the proverbial opposite who attracts. David flies to Montreal to attend Zachary’s bachelor party (a plot stretch that’s an excuse for “meeting cute”). There he encounters Benoit (Collin Quinn Rice), a sweet-tempered 23-year-old Quebecois florist. Old-fashioned and rosy-cheeked, this very likable lad doesn’t own a cellphone or dabble in email. He’s a puzzlement.

They embark on a complex courtship, a tangled and tantalizing mating dance that’s two steps forward and one step back. Of course, the audience’s sympathies lurch likewise. Amid a downpour of unwanted or irrelevant advice and more choices than answers, David’s dilemma, exacerbated by cultural contrast, is a very shared secret. Indeed, Le Switch (the title is a bit too predictive) almost becomes an illustrated lecture for its very concerned crowd. But gay theater has always done this, help a once-silent minority to make up for lost time.

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

Happily, Stephen Brackett’s expertly tuned and wickedly cast staging gives no slack to the tensions Dawkins twists. This quintet is richly into—and onto–their nicely detailed characters, especially what they are when they’re with each other. To paraphrase Tennessee, you can smell the odor of authenticity about About Face’s Theater Wit proceedings. Wonderfully enough, in gay theater often the best match making is between actors and audience. It happens here.

LeSwitch-4photos by Michael Brosilow

Le Switch
About Face Theatre
in association with Doug Nevin
Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave.
Wed-Sat at 7:30; Sun at 3:00
scheduled to end on February 21, 2016
for tickets, call 773.975.8150 or visit About Face

for info on more Chicago Theater,
visit Theatre in Chicago

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