On Nov. 30 I attended the world premiere of the musical Jack & Aiden, performed at the Ground Floor Theatre. Known for its progressive programming, this one is certainly a stand-out for the year 2023.

 Funny and heartbreaking, not afraid to add a few minutes of full nudity, and quite contemporary, Jack and Aiden is a delight.

The play has only two characters. We first meet Justin P. Lopez (playing Jack, at right in photo) stark naked as he welcomes to his place for the first time Laura Leo Kelly (Aiden). While it would have been easy to cast just anyone in the role of Aiden, who has just transitioned, the brave casting decision was made here to place Kelly (a trans non-binary artist) in the role. The role of Aiden thus becomes entirely believable, which is certainly key to the success of the play. Any future production at another playhouse needs to maintain this artistic integrity.

Acting was intense: both Lopez and Kelly did a superb job. The plot hinges on substance abuse, which I thought was less than innovative. It struck me as a stereotype that a large portion of the gay community is either a drug addict or alcoholic. Since this play was laid out quite boldly on a sexual spectrum, I felt there was more opportunity to find a different reason for their partnership conflict. Nonetheless, they played it for all it was worth, all wrapped up in a series of musical numbers. Yes, this is a musical!  Remember the outrageous musical number “Gay or European” from the 2007 adaption of the comedy Legally Blonde? That was played for laughs, but the selections here really embody the soul of the characters. Both actors have fine voices, and deliver these 13 songs with a punch.

I won’t say more about the plot in an effort not give any more away. Best to see this yourself.

Scenic design by Gary Thornsberry went beyond innovative, and is certainly one of the very best sets I’ve seen at Ground Floor Theatre. Sexting from the phones of the characters are displayed on various panels above the heads of the actors. A most effective use of set space, as well as allowing us to see what they are messaging to one another.

Jack & Aiden (runs to Dec. 16) book by Lane Michael Stanley and music and lyrics by Tova Katz under the direction of Trace Turner and musical direction of Trey Shonkwiler.

By Dr. Cliff Cunningham

Dr. Cliff Cunningham is a planetary scientist, the acknowledged expert on the 19th century study of asteroids. He is a Research Fellow at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia. He serves as Editor of the History & Cultural Astronomy book series published by Springer; and Associate Editor of the Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage. Asteroid 4276 in space was named in his honour by the International Astronomical Union based in the recommendation of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Dr. Cunningham has written or edited 15 books. His PhD is in the History of Astronomy, and he also holds a BA in Classical Studies.