Directed by Andrew Volkoff
Produced by About Face Theatre
At the Greenhouse Theatre
Over reaching comic fable self destructs as it tries to cover too many stories and styles
Playwright Bixby Elliot’s Abraham Lincoln Was A F*GG*T is part campy comedy. part gay coming of age fable and part wishful history. This play sure has it moments despite the annoying camp and musical elements tirelessly played by Dana Black. This over-staged and over-produced story simply tried to do too much. With a tighter focus on teen Cal’s (the winning Matt Farabee) coming of age story as he seeks a historical role model to justify his being gay, this play works effectively. But the clutter from all the campy interludes and the inclusion of Cal’s uncle Geoffrey’s gay relationship with Buck (Derrick Trumbly). diminishes the power of Cal’s search for self-identity and a role model.
Stretching credulity by having the studious Cal researching Lincoln’s past utilizing thin history is used because Lincoln is an iconic historical figure. If Cal had truly study his history, he’d have focused in James Buchanan the President before Lincoln since there is amply evidence that Buchanan was probably gay. But then, why have one of the worst Presidents be your role model?
The duel story of Cal finding a lover in effeminate teen Skylor (Lane Flores) while researching Lincoln’s past was cute. The flashbacks to Lincoln’s (Nathan Hosner) history with Mary Todd (Jessie Fisher) as well as Lincoln’s curious relationship with Joshua Speed in his early days and Lincoln’s tight relationship with his bodyguard Captain Derickson (both played by Derrick Trumbly) were designed to dramatize Lincoln’s melancholy and loneliness , implying that Lincoln pined for a man.
As Cal quested for proof of Lincoln’s being gay, playwright Elliot adds a needless plot twist about Cal’s estranged uncle Geoffrey and his lover Buck. We see Hosner and Trumbly move from contemporary lovers to Lincoln and his special friends. That and the campy interludes work more as an irritant than story enhancement.
But this empathetic and human story of two courageous youths (Cal and Skylor) as they struggle to become reluctant heroes as they attempt to honor their personal heroes is a compelling story. Why Elliot decided to play this as a comedy is a mystery, especially when he employes a strange ending that is anything but a comic one.
Matt Farabee and Lane Flores are terrific here while Dana Black shows her versatile skills in the numerous cameo comic roles.
Abraham Lincoln Was A F*GG*T is a mixed entertaining work that needs a judicious cut and a re-focus to pack a deeper wallop. As it plays now, it wears out its welcome with too much theatricality thus needlessly over complicating its story. I’m guessing that many will find this work funny and engaging.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: June 11, 2015
For more info checkout the Abraham Lincoln Was A F*GG*T page at theatreinchicago.com
At the Greenhouse Theatre, 2257 N. Lincoln, Chicago, IL, call 773-404-7336, tickets $35, $20 students/seniors, Thursdays & Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 25 minutes with intermission, through July 5, 2015