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A CurtainUp Review
Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party


We played hockey, and sold beaver pelts, as we do in Canada.— Esmerelda, pretending to be a "Canadian girlfriend"
Abraham Lincoln's Big, Gay Dance Party
Pippa Pearthree, Arnie Burton, Ben Roberts and Ted Koch
(Photo: Carol Rosegg )
Expectations are high for the “Fun Factor” of a show titled such as this one. Especially when it’s Fringe Festival production is a sold-out hit. And although Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party managed to make me laugh out loud at times, this three-act production’s comedy was underwhelming, and Rashomon/Inherit The Wind premise was clunky and inconsistent.

The production starts with a charming prologue of sorts: a couple short scenes from a fourth grade Christmas pageant, our Founding Fathers having Christmas. It takes place in a small town in Illinois, which happens to be Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace. All goes amuck when the Lincoln character begins to talk about his bedfellow Joshua Speed, and his love for this man. With a song-and-dance segue, the premise of the next two and a half hours is introduced. The fourth grade teacher, Harmony Green (Pippa Pearthree) has been fired and put on trial by the town for stating Lincoln’s sexual preference as homo. We are to watch the story of the trial from three different perspectives – the prosecutor (Robert Hogan), the defense attorney (Stephanie Pope Caffey), and an NYC journalist writing about the trail (Arnie Burton). To add a democratic flair, an audience member is picked randomly, and they chose which order these stories are told.

Seems a disjointed premise for a show with this title? It is. Sure, there are dance-party breakout moments, and the oft off-color humor. But ultimately, the play is barely about Honest Abe, or even dance parties, but about contemporary prejudices and the malice that can get in the way of good intentions. Yes, there are some provocative concepts truly at play in this setup. It is a shame the show’s title misrepresents, but it is more of a shame that ALBGD has a half-baked plot that is filled with unexplained jumps, and a completely unfinished ending.

The cast, who all play multiple roles, try heartily to make the evening dynamic. Everyone plays Abraham Lincoln at one point or another (and often all at once), along with taking on two to four other roles in the various narratives. The characterizations are good, and only come across as stereotypical when they’re playing the kids who were in the pageant. But their efforts are mired by Chris Smith’s slow direction and awkward staging.

ALBGDP did provide me with an enjoyable evening, and I could see why this strange little concept fared well at the fringe festival, among its rough-and-tumble colleagues. But it felt as though the show’s off-broadway debut didn’t include desperately needed revisions or re-examining of the story – what, exactly is this trial about anyway?

On the bright side, what a fun party fact this show provides me – Abraham Lincoln may in fact have been gay! And I saw a play about it! Alas, though, the title of the production does make people skeptical about the legitimacy of my claims.

Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party
Written by Aaron Loeb

Directed by Chris Smith
Cast: Pippa Pearthree, Lisa Birnbaum, Ben Roberts, Robert Hogan, Arnie Burton, Stephanie Pope Caffey, Ted Koch
Choreograpy: Vince Pesce
Set Design: Bill English
Lighting Design: Jeff Croiter & Grant Yeager
Costume Design: Rebecca Lustig
Sound Design: Kim Fuhr-Carbone
Original Music & Music Supervision: Rick Burkhardt & Rick Hip-Flores Production Stage Manager: Christine Catti
Press representation: O&M Co. Theatre Row’s Acorn Theatre, 410 West 42nd Street , (212) 239-6200, www.telecharge.com
Through September 5, 2010
Two and a half hours, with two intermissions Tuesdays & Sundays at 7pm, Wednesdays – Saturdays at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm and Sunday at 3pm
Reviewed by Amanda Cooper based on August 9th performance
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