“Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party” – Stray Cat Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ May 23, 2011


Stray Cat Theatre, Tempe Performing Arts Center
Tempe, AZ

Leave it to Stray Cat Theatre to bring unusual and different theater to Valley audiences. Their latest, “Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party” presents a new way to interpret well documented history.

A teacher suggests, as part of a school play, that our 16th president was gay. She even mentions that an earlier president, Buchanan, may have been America’s first gay president. Her interpretation causes furor among the school’s parents causing a strange “trial of the century” to establish Lincoln’s sexuality.

The interpretation has merit. Lincoln married Mary Todd but the much delayed marriage was almost cancelled. With Mary, Lincoln fathered four sons but that doesn’t prove his orientation because if you add Lincoln’s well documented love of and shared bed with Joshua Speed. This revelation really stimulates the parents’ anger. Facts, they contend, be damned.

Playwright Aaron Loeb takes this historic data and turns it into a three-act look at the situation each from different perspectives but each act presents a strong case for Lincoln’s gayness. As the play starts, the cast selects a person who becomes the audience spokesperson and decides the order of the acts. Since each story is complete it doesn’t matter how the stories are told. On opening night, it appeared that the spokesperson may be connected with the production. As audiences discover “Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party” it will be interesting to see if the act presentations fall into the same order as opening night.

Details of three stories will ruin the play for audiences but it’s fair to summarize and criticize. The characters, in each segment, are cardboard cutouts and the situations are extreme stretches of imagination and credibility. While funny things happen, it’s pretty far-fetched malarkey.

This play is very different theater. The stories are over-the-top imagination and you will enjoy the silliness even if it all looks like it could be richer comically. The play strangely never really answers the issue about Lincoln.

Who will ever know Lincoln’s true sexual orientation but this play is high-spirited fun in Ron May’s sharp staging with a small ensemble of spunky actors gleaning every bit of comedic nonsense from Loeb’s twisting and turning of history.

“Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party” is not conventional theater piece and it won’t be to everyone’s liking especially if you hold Lincoln as a stalwart straight guy.

If you are willing to look at history from different perspectives, “Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party” is fun. It plays through June 11. For tickets, call the Stray Cat Theatre box office at 480-820-8022 or order tickets online at www.straycattheatre.org.

Grade: C