Le Switch at the Jungle Theater

Micahel Hanna and Kasey Mahaffey in Le Switch. Photo by Dan Norman.

Micahel Hanna and Kasey Mahaffey in Le Switch. Photo by Dan Norman.

What is so rare as a full moon in June on a perfect Minnesota evening? It may be a perfect little romantic comedy. The rom-com genre, so over worked by Hollywood that even they have mostly abandoned it, is now being resuscitated and given new life by Chicago playwright Philip Dawkins in a remarkably loveable production at the Jungle Theatre.

We can all recite the clichéd formula to romantic comedy: “Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy…etc.”. This formula can be expanded to: “A hapless, uptight, main character meets an improbable but engaging prospect. He refuses to believe it is the real thing and looses interest, or feigns to loose interest, until circumstances and secondary characters enlighten this misguided soul and then he….”

Le Switch, now playing at the Jungle Theatre, follows this pattern, but with two fine exceptions. First, this is a boy meets boy story. And second, this is not just another ho-hum rehashing of familiar tropes.

Le Switch is both smart and funny and the characters are quirky but well developed. Even Benoit, the young, handsome, and (mon dieu!) French speaking, love interest, is just real enough to make you believe that romance is possible.

The effects of last year’s Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage gives the play its almost up-to the minute content. This is demonstrated in the play not on the large societal scale but in the personal and particular. All of the little tossed off lines and ideas in the first act come round by the end of the play to make a very satisfying whole. (Be still my heart, but this is good writing and that is always worth falling for.)

As for director Jeremy B. Cohen’s production of this lovely script, it is as well done as a June bride’s imagined perfect wedding day. The entire cast inhabits their characters as comfortably as a cardigan sweater. On opening night most scenes ran as if the cast were in the middle of a long and successful run with everyone at ease both in their own parts and with one another.

This is not to say the play is dull. When David (Kasey Mahaffy), a professor of Library Science, and Benoit (Michael Hanna) meet in a flower shop it is to the voices of operatic sopranos as the pace changes to dreamlike slo-mo. These moments of high camp are interspersed with scenes of genuine introspection, as when David’s roommate Frank (Patrick Bailey) shares what his life was like with his now deceased lover and when David meets his twin sister Sarah (Emily Gunyon Halaas) for a heart to heart.

Some of the evening’s funniest lines come from Michael Wieser who, as David’s best friend Zachary, rounds out the cast as a bag-pipe playing, kilt-wearing sidekick.

Credit must be given to Kate Sutton-Johnson for designing a set that makes the frequent scene changes turn over in seconds. The projections in this play are subtle and pitched for effect, not to announce themselves as the latest new toy in the designer’s box of tricks.

Except for a missed light cue near the end of the show and a hokey final gesture that even the accomplished actors seemed uncomfortable with, this was a fine evening at the theatre.

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