Le Switch. Written by Philip Dawkins. Directed by Tom Bruett. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco.
It’s been only two years since the landmark Supreme Court ruling granting marriage equality to LGBT Americans. Much debate, both pro and con, preceded the event, and still engages thinkers on both sides of the question. Philip Dawkins’ wickedly smart Le Switch examines marriage from all perspectives in this carefully crafted and heartfelt romantic comedy.
David has a phobia against commitment. He collects books that remain unopened; the illusion of possibilities is enough for him. The product of a dysfunctional family life, he and his twin sister Sarah are dead set against marriage. Working in library science, David is all about classification, the ‘what am I about‘ of everything. He’s a buttoned up, overly analytical and closed to the new possibility represented by his best friend Zachary, who’s about to get married. Sarah is living with a man in a false green-card marriage. The two represent those who argued that marriage, gay or straight, is an assimilation to an archaic social construct.
David’s roommate is Frank, a mid-fifties mentor whose lover has recently died of cancer. He comes from a generation who could never have imagined the gains the new thirty-something’s treat not as a luxury, but as a birthright. Frank never married Daniel; they lived every day in commitment that didn’t require legality. The bold and sassy Zachary is all about his impending nuptials, his “queering an archaic institution”, which serves as the plays motivation.
When in Montreal for Zachary’s bachelor party, everything changes for David when he meets a cute florist. Its love at first sight, and sends David down a new path that will challenge his very core. Dawkins shows that love can force changes that once seemed unmalleable. What will David and Benoit’s relationship look like? All around him are confusing relationship examples; Frank and Daniel, Sarah and her faux, then all too real husband, his parents and his best friend’s marriage and dissolution.
The casting by director Tom Bruett is exceptional. Bespectacled, suspender wearing Steve Ryhne is adorable as the over-thinking David. His reluctance to move forward makes you wanna slap him upside the head, very gently though. Nancy French plays the loving sister with intelligence and charm. When she falls in love and becomes pregnant with her man, she wishes David can have what she’s found. Donald Currie shines as the voice of the elder gay generation. He’s lived through the real struggles that paved the way for his young friends and Currie makes you feel his every heartache and disappointment. Brian Paterson, is the perfect comic foil. Self-absorbed, bold and full of opinions, Paterson grabs his chance at marriage and flies with it. Ryan Vásquez is the thoughtful and honest Benoit, who defines his love for David with a request for his hand, not because it’s the in-thing to do, but out of respect and commitment.
Sarah Phykitt’s scenic design is spectacular; moving panel walls onto which graphics of library books, Montreal and New York are projected. Director Tom Bruett has beautifully imagined this West Coast premiere. Dawkins writing is superb, creating empathetic characters we all know. Holding up a mirror to the LGBT community, Le Switch is a smart, literate modern fairy tale grounded in the shifting social politics of our times.
Performances run through December 3rd, 2017 www.nctcsf.org 415.863.8972