Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Playwright Philip Dawkins debuts a brightly wrapped love fest. Dawkins’ hero is David (played by Stephen Cone) a guy afraid of commitment and petrified of marriage. His divorced parents have left him with the relationship heebie-jeebies. When his best friend Zachary (played by LaShawn Banks) and even his sister Sarah (played by Elizabeth Ledo) question his latest break-up, David swears off love for good. And that’s when he meets Benoit (played by Collin Quinn Rice). Dawkins’ first switch is this isn’t a typical Harry-Met-Sally-rom-com movie premise. Not only is this is a boy meets boy love story, it’s also about the different kinds of love in someone’s life. It’s a strong tribute to the sustainability of friendship.
Dawkins’ distinct characters are a makeshift family. Through the skillful direction of Stephen Brackett, the talented ensemble hone an authentic togetherness. They are there to support each other in love and loss. We see them nudge each other to take chances. We also see them lovingly scream at each other. There is history, humor and genuine acceptance. Although throughout the course of the play we witness the new blossoming love between the endearing Cone and the adorable Rice, we never meet the partners of Banks, Ledo and Mitchell J. Fain (Frank). We only know them through the intimate descriptions we hear.
And that’s another switch, the sweet soliloquies about these unseen people tether our hearts to the relationships. At one point, I got misty thinking ‘Danny would like that.’ From Fain and other’s storytelling about Danny, I feel I know him. I feel I love him and Frank together. The love flows throughout this show sweeping the audience up into each relationship current. There is definitely a lot to love. And there’s plenty to laugh at too.
What’s a rom-com without the comedy? Brackett takes Dawkins’ smart script and delivers ongoing laugh-out-loud moments. The vivacious Banks steals most scenes with his fast-talking deliveries peppered with perfectly timed pauses. Banks channels every hilarious vocal and physical inflection of a stereotypical-flamboyant-black-guy. When we meet him, he is in the midst of planning his over-the-top orange and aubergine wedding. Bank’s personality is even more vibrant than his color choices.
The whole crew gets to showcase their comedy timing through Dawkins’ witty dialogue. Ledo is particularly funny as she guides the group through a game fantasy. The hysterical Fain has ongoing outspoken ‘back-in-my-day’ rants. And Cone and Rice have these amusingly charming encounters from their contrasting backgrounds. Cone is a Jewish New Yorker that collects rare books. Rice is an idealistic Montreal florist. All these quirky pieces make this play play like a perfect rom-com movie.
And here’s Dawkins’ biggest switch, this play is grounded in substance. Underneath the frolicking rom-com layer is the reality of new legislation allowing same sex marriages. What happens when you suddenly get what you were fighting for? Is it happily ever-afters for everyone? Or is it the 50% divorce rate extended into the gay community? Dawkins explores the complications of marriage equality from different relationship viewpoints. What makes a marriage? Dawkins asks all the questions but leaves some unanswered. LE SWITCH is a nontraditional look at relationships. It has both loving insight and sparkling humor. Enjoyable on all switches!
Running Time: Two hours includes an intermission
At Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont
Written by Philip Dawkins
Directed by Stephen Brackett
Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 3pm
Thru February 21st
Buy tickets at www.aboutfacetheatre.org
Production photo by Michael Brosilow
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