Theater Caps are bite-sized punch-packing capsule reviews by resident theater critic Elaine Liner. Use them as a reminder -- or a teaser, if you procrastinate -- of her full-length reviews in The Mixmaster's weekly sister.
Intrigued by the title -- Abraham Lincoln's Big, Gay Dance Party -- I booked a seat at Level Ground Arts at the Kim Dawson Theatre. I've stayed away from LGA for about a year, after sitting through a couple of dreadful shows of theirs at the now-defunct Hub Theatre in Deep Ellum. After coming out strong with enjoyable productions of Evil Dead the Musical and a barebones spoof of Plan 9 from Outer Space, the quality of LGA's work started to suffer and I can't suffer sloppy shows. When a theater company, even one that defines itself as a low-budget amateur troupe, stops caring about getting better, I take them off the must-see list.
But ALBGDP was a huge hit at the 2009 New York International Fringe Festival and its playwright, Aaron Loeb, has lots of big professional theaters interested in his career. Maybe...maybe...
But no, despite its giddy title, there's not a lot of anything big, gay or party-like in the LGA production. There is some dancing. Let's not speak of that.
The play is built around a story of a small-town lesbian schoolteacher on trial, Inherit the Wind style, for teaching her 9-year-old students that Abe Lincoln shared a bed and maybe a long, lavender love affair with his friend Joshua Speed. We see the events of the trial from the prosecutor's POV, from the defense lawyer's and then, in the third hour, from the perspective of a venal and vicious (and gay) New York Times reporter who wants to publicly out the prosecutor's closeted gay son.
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It's not a good play. Not funny enough to be political satire; not deep enough to be social commentary. So seeing it three times in one sitting is trial indeed. It gets preachy and shrill. I got sleepy and tired.
Two actors, Allen Mathews and Dick Monday, are funny when they should be and serious when the script requires it. That's it for passable acting among LGA's large cast, some of whom do the audience a favor by delivering lines to the back wall of the set.
A confederacy of winces.
Abraham Lincoln's Big, Gay Dance Party continues through June 25 at Kim Dawson Theatre. Call 214-630-5491.