Thursday, January 22, 2009

Abraham Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party

I saw Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Abraham Lincoln’s Dance Party the Thursday before it closed. (Lest you be confused, that’s just my nickname for the show. The actual title is in fact the same as the title for this blog)

It’s a great show. The production is wonderful with solid acting throughout. A few missed moments here and there, but nothing distractingly tragic. The set and costumes were amazing. The Playhouse does a great job. As for the play itself, Aaron Loeb deftly tackles a wide range of social issues head-on. He’s skilled enough to show both sides of an argument (or at least attempt to) in a way that leaves both viewpoints seeming valid. The show has heart, whimsy, drama, and even elements of improv (much to my enjoyment).

That all said, I have two criticisms of the show:

1. Cut the last line. Not the whole last line. I’d save the Lincoln joke if I could, but I really don’t need to be told at the end of a show, in so many words, “Now you go home and think about what you’ve just seen.” It’s patronizing and condescending and a bunch of other negative sounding “-ing” words. If that line is somehow intrinsic to the soul of the play to the playwright, I would say then the line needs to be set up somehow earlier in the play so that it comes off as inevitable instead of as a “The More You Know (*ding*)” add-on.

2. The show wants to be a musical. Seriously. I sat through the entire opening dance number wondering… Why are they not singing? They clearly want to be singing. Why are they not singing? The energy level was about at eye level during that opening number. Had they been singing, it would have been about 15 feet above me broken through the plaster ceiling letting rain through on to my head, but I wouldn’t have cared because I would have been enjoying the show so much.

I’m a firm believer that artists need to be sensitive and free to let their art become what it wants to. If the artist realizes that what they’re working on wants to be something that the artist isn’t skilled enough to create they either need to stop and be at peace with the fact that they are not the artist for this particular work, learn the skills they need to complete the work, or find collaborators who posses the necessary skills.

This show wants to be a musical. I know the title is “Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party” not “Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Song & Dance Party”, but unless you call it “Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Ballet” then “Dance Party” implies song. Like it or not, it just does. If the you don’t know the first thing about musical theater or writing song, then go out and find a lyricist and a composer and put in some songs. It’s really not that hard, and this show in particular is screaming to be a musical. Even within the show, scenes would end in moments that wanted to be songs. It’s there, struggling to get off the page. It just needs some help.

Here's a link to Tim Baur's review. I'd say go see it, but it's closed. Look for it to move on though. This show will get produced.


After seeing this show and Aaron's other show First Person Shooter, which I saw a million times as a fill-in Stage Manager, I could now easily write up a one-page cheat sheet on how to improvise a play in the style of Aaron Lobe. I don't say that as a criticism, necessarily. It's useful as an improvisor to be able to do that. I would challenge Aaron to write something outside of the "trial of the century/Law & Order" thing he's got going on though.

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In 1789, the governor of Australia granted land and some animals to James Ruse in an experiment to see how long it would take him to support himself. Within 15 months he had become self sufficient. The area is still known as Experiment Farm. This is my Experiment Farm to see how long it will take me to support myself by writing.