Wednesday night was PlayGround night for the first preview of Aaron Loeb’s new play! Now, I got a chance to see some of this play as it was developed, as a very early work-in-progress. Plus, Aaron and I are in PlayGround. Plus, this was a preview, and my theory on previews is that you never ever review them, whether you loved the play or not, because anything you mention, good or bad, could be cut by the time the play opens, and any line flubs or technical gaffes are probably because the playwright just handed in a rewrite an hour before the preview. Plus, I’m not a reviewer anyway. So you’re only going to get a few broad strokes from me.
First of all, this is by Aaron Loeb, who’s a terrific writer. He had a humongo hit with First Person Shooter last year; he’s written a shitload of amazing ten-minute plays; and he does that thing I mentioned awhile back that I absolutely love and shoot for in my own work: rapid changes from drama to comedy that leave you off-balance and make the drama even more dramatic and the humor even more, um, humorful.
Second of all, SF Playhouse does a hell of a job at casting. Velina Brown, Mark Anderson Phillips, Joe Kady and Sarah Mitchell particularly leapt out at me (partly because I was secretly making mental notes of parts I’ve written in my own plays that they’d be freaking great in) but the whole cast is really, really good.
Third of all, it’s way more dramatic than you’d expect from the title. I was expecting a naked Abe Lincoln on roller skates (or was that in the early work-in-progress that I saw?). And there is indeed plenty of dancing and gay Lincoln-osity. But there are quite a few scenes (which I imagine won’t be cut) that are real and sad and tragic and just perfect.
Lastly, the play does that other thing I keep railing about, which is acknowledging the fact that there’s an audience. I don’t mean, of course, that every play has to address the audience directly and ask them to choose the order of the play or anything (hint, hint) — but if the play is aware that it’s a play and not a TV show, I get very happy.
Um, that veered close to sounding like I’m offering an opinion. So let me just wrap it up with the italicized paragraph:
Aaron Loeb’s Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party at SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter St., San Francisco, through Jan 17. Tickets at sfplayhouse.org.