There is an increasing amount of queer characters on TV and in movies nowadays, and I am overjoyed that queer people are becoming more visible. But I swear, if I see one more queer character written by someone who clearly has no idea what it’s like to be queer, I’m going to lose my mind. Thankfully, the queer characters in About Face Theatre’s production of Le Switch are treated the way they should be — just like everyone else.
Le Switch, written by Loyola alum Phillip Dawkins, tells the story of David (Stephen Cone), a commitment-shy gay man living in Manhattan. When the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality and suddenly being gay is OK, David must grapple with normality and what it means to be queer.
First thing’s first: This show is funny as hell. Dawkins has a brilliant sense of humor, and while there are plenty of gay jokes, the funniest lines come from the play’s more honest moments. These moments are brought to life by the show’s cast, particularly from Cone and Elizabeth Ledo as David’s sister Sarah.
It’s rare to see actors gifted with not only spot-on comedic timing, but also a pure sense of unabashed honesty, as displayed in a heartwarming scene near the middle of Act Two. Cone and Ledo play perfect siblings, balancing gentle concern and blatant candor with finesse.
Cone and Ledo aren’t the only cast members who bring their A-game. David’s makeshift family consists of his loud and brassy friend Zachary (La Shawn Banks), his older and wiser father figure Frank (Mitchell J. Fain) and his Canadian lover Benoît (Collin Quinn Rice, who speaks with a flawlessly gorgeous French accent). All the cast members perform with astonishing veracity that perfectly captures David’s story.
The set, designed by Joe Schermoly, is clever. Apartment walls line the back and right sides of the stage, making a living room and kitchen, but all of the furniture can be easily moved, leaving room onstage to create locations such as a park bench or a canal. The apartment walls stay onstage the entire time, but Schermoly seems to have faith that audience members will use their imagination to create the rest of the setting. Blinds on the back wall move up and down to reveal characters in private moments or design elements that help shape the environment. Schermoly also uses the space above the set, hanging items such as flower pots and leaves from the ceiling to help solidify the location.
The play handles the balance between drama and comedy with perfection. Although it’s heartbreaking at times and comical at others, I never felt the play lost itself. Throughout tears of laughter and of sadness, Le Switch holds itself together. It’s certainly a comedy, but it contains enough elements of raw human emotion to make it just a little different than your average comedy. Queer, if you will.
One of Dawkins’ greatest strengths as a playwright is his ability to make you care about his characters. During one surprising turn of events at the beginning of Act Two, I heard no less than 10 audience members audibly gasp, “Oh, no.” (I may or may not have been one of them.) The candor and authenticity of the performances combined with the script invites audience members into a world that is changing, and you must decide if you are going to change with it.
In the end, Le Switch isn’t about being gay; it’s about home. It’s about change. It’s about being different and being normal, and it’s about how you fit into society. Dawkins handles all of these themes with a razor-sharp wit, and the cast performs with honesty that is sometimes hilarious, sometimes brutal, but above all, pure. For two hours, Le Switch was my home. I was welcomed with open arms, and you will be, too.
About Face Theatre’s Le Switch will run from Jan. 23 to Feb. 21. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m. at Theatre Wit (1229 W. Belmont Ave.). Tickets are $20 to $35 and are available here.