Photo by Don Kellogg

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Abraham Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party

If only Chris Smith's direction was better - this play might be the hot ticket of the season.  Instead, I'm left merely pondering the potential of this soggy mid-western corn dog at the Acorn Theatre.

Don't get me wrong Aaron Loeb's play is a potential future juggernaut but its currently overloaded and slow.  There are too many story lines, too many jokes (albeit funny) that seem to pop out of nowhere.  In one sense it's a solid drama but suddenly becomes a rag tag Saturday night live skit - round and round it went.  Behind all of this is a strong, worthwhile message, but that message is diluted by the constant juggling of the story and focus.  Scene changes are laborious and too long.  The show should be cut to 90 powerfully funny minutes.  The "audience chooses the order of the 3 acts" gimmick takes precious time and is purely academic.  Unless I plan to see it all 6 different ways or do my doctoral dissertation on the show, it's useless to me as an audience member at this performance.

Acting was solid.  It's a diverse cast.  Arnie Burton steals the show as the Pulitzer prize winning journalist, Anton -  as does Stephanie Pope Caffey as Regina/Esmeralda.  Robert Hogan is a stage veteran and doesn't disappoint.  Ben Roberts, a relatively new face (and chest), certainly can play "cute (gay) mid-western boy" quite well too.

Politics, religion, education, gay rights, deception, double crossing, bigotry (oh, i already covered a few of these with politics) and the liberal media - all at once - just to name a few of the subjects covered!  At a few points, I lost track of who was screwing who.  One of my favorite scenes was the argument that ensues between the journalist (Arnie) and the black senator (Regina) when she confronts his turning "gay" into being the new "black".  Very powerful stuff packed into that dialogue.  Very powerful stuff packed into this whole play as a matter of fact.

Maybe I need to see it again?  Or maybe it just needs to be fixed so those who follow me get all they need from one great performance.  David Cote summed it up recently by saying that Broadway was the last place this play needs to be.  It belongs playing in regional theaters in small cities and towns all over America.  That's really where it's needed most.