Jeffrey is a witty romp on AIDS
Saturday, Feb 07, 2015 06:00 am
Runs until Feb. 14
10322 – 83 Ave.
Tickets: $12 to $18 Call 780-420-1757 or purchase online at tixonthesquare.ca
Nudity and sexual content
AIDS is no laughing matter. Yet in the hands of playwright Paul Rudnick, the heavy duty so-called “gay disease” takes on a funny, often breezy sheen without removing the serious sub-text.
Jeffrey, now running at Walterdale Theatre until Feb. 14, is one of those beautifully crafted comedies that makes people laugh without dismissing the pain. In this case, laughter is a magic bullet that takes the power out of AIDS and dispels the fear-mongering so often associated with the gay world.
Co-directors Sarah van Tassel and Kyle Thulien as well as the cast have embraced the one concept we all inherently know – that succumbing to fear sucks the life out of us.
This mocking, tongue-in-cheek play centres on Jeffrey, an unemployed Manhattan actor-waiter who gives up sex during the AIDS epidemic of the ’90s. His idea of safe sex is no sex. But there is a problem.
Jeffrey lives for sex. In breaking the fourth wall, Jeffrey tells the audience he estimates coupling more than 5,000 times. But these are all physical pleasures. Emotion is never mentioned.
In his first visit to a gym, he meets temptation in the form of Steve, a cute bartender with a rapier wit. Steve is in the market for a real relationship. All systems are a go until Jeffrey discovers Steve is HIV positive and slams on the brakes.
Jeffrey is not only terrified of contracting AIDS, he is more unsettled about developing a relationship with someone that may die of the disease.
His actions shock his best friends, a May-December couple in the same predicament. They are the perfect counterpoint as the older Lester, a limp-wristed interior designer, who loves to play queen, lives life to the fullest. Lester adores his partner, the sweet, dim-witted Darius, a feline-costumed dancer in Cats who is dying of AIDS.
Throughout his panicked celibacy, Jeffrey switches from the hard reality of life into bizarre fantasies crowded with cartoonish characters – both gay and straight.
It’s through these fantasies that Rudnick dangles his irreverent views on numerous subjects: gay lifestyles, showy guardian angels, horny priests, useless pop psychologists, Broadway musicals and stiff-necked parents.
Only a playwright of Rudnick’s consummate skill could ratchet the laughs with two scenes in an addiction centre for sexual compulsives and a masturbation bar.
Co-director van Tassel negotiates the scenes from reality to fantasy with a minimum amount of bumps. Still, it’s the actors who find a balanced groove for each character.
Sean Richard MacKinnon as Jeffrey and Logan Boon as Steve have developed a comfortable chemistry that is both intelligent and buoyant.
Gerald Mason as Sterling hams it up to the delight of the audience and Simon Miller is completely endearing as the bubble-headed Darius.
As the only female in the cast playing all the women’s parts, former St. Albert actress Catherine Wenschlag received some of the biggest laughs by just walking on stage.
One of Wenschlag’s most captivating characters was the blowsy, camera-hogging Jersey mother who attends her first Pride Parade. Rudnick gives this character delicious one-liners and Wenschlag delivered them with unflappable zest.
The multi-media production values for this community theatre production were spot-on and added a slick element to the two-hour show.
Although well-crafted production values enhance Jeffrey, most of us attended for the laughs and honesty of what the play tackles. It’s worth a look.
Much sexual dialogue and nudity is included.