Playwright: Philip Dawkins. At: About Face at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets: 773-975-8150; www.aboutfacetheatre.org; $35. Runs through: Feb. 21
Le Switch is the second world premiere I've seen since November with a hero unable to accept the increasing heteronormative nature of gay rights in this era of legal same-sex marriage. The other was Peter Parnell's Dada Woof Papa Hot at Lincoln Center in New York ( reviewed by me in WCT ). Both plays center on affluent New Yorkers just old enough to remember when being openly gay might make life more difficult and gay rights were a cause, although neither hero is old enough to have experienced gay life pre-AIDS or pre-Stonewall.
The hero in Le Switch is David Feinberg ( Stephen Cone ), 35 years old in 2012, who rejects same-sex marriage for the very reason that it was denied for so long and was a line of demarcation between gay and straight. Now he's best man when his gay best bud Zachary ( La Shawn Banks ) weds, and soon begins a relationship that results in a marriage proposal. He approves of neither. Frank ( Mitchell J. Fain ), a slightly older close friend whose partner died, remarks, "Every day for 25 years we woke up and chose to stay together not because we had to, but because we wanted to. We never promised each other anything." In the play's two-year span, David also sees Zachary and his spouse stumble and admit they "miss our lives, miss our independence."
Stacked against this is a charming and romantic French-Canadian lover, Benoit ( Collin Quinn Rice ), who's much more secure about himselfperhaps because he's 12 years younger than David and never went through coming-out trauma. I won't say how it ends, but I will tell you that David has commitment issues far deeper than marriage.
Still, author Philip Dawkins chooses to frame his tale in heteronormative terms, using David's straight, married twin sister, Sarah ( Elizabeth Ledo ), as a mirror image. In the play's turning point, she tells David he's not the outsider he imagines he is with his upper-middle-class job ( university professor ), a choice Manhattan apartment and a collection of rare books. David, who teaches library science, opens the play by saying, "There is nothing which cannot be classified." Le Switch is about how he classifies himself.
Characteristic of a Dawkins play, Le Switch is smart as well as very funny. Banks gets the biggest laughs ( all played perfectly ) but everyone cracks wise. Rice and Cone are an attractive couple, partly because neither is drop-dead gorgeous and both have puppy-dog appeal. Fain and Ledo are rock-solid veterans. Director Stephen Brackett keeps the pace brisk and doesn't let the laughs go over the top. Only one moment, the Act II proposal scene, lacked sufficient weight, needing a bit more time and reaction.