My Night With Reg wears thin

MY NIGHT WITH REG by Kevin Elyot (Mirvish/Studio 180). At the Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge). Runs to February 26. $39-$92..


MY NIGHT WITH REG by Kevin Elyot (Mirvish/Studio 180). At the Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge). Runs to February 26. $39-$92. See listing. Rating: NNN

Kevin Elyot‘s My Night With Reg is often considered the UK AIDS play, the across-the-pond response to Americas The Normal Heart or As Is. I have to admit I hadnt heard of it until 2015s Donmar Warehouse revival. But maybe thats because its just not a very strong play.

At least thats the impression I got watching local company Studio 180s production. Joel Greenbergs direction and the performances are just fine, and its always intriguing to see a play featuring all queer characters. But the piece itself, apart from some clever one-liners, feels empty.

Whereas The Normal Heart and As Is tackle larger themes, Reg seems solely concerned with whos boinking whom.

The three-scene play opens at a 1985 party held at the newly decorated flat of Guy (Jonathan Wilson), a lonely man whos always had a crush on his university friend John (Gray Powell), a handsome, wealthy layabout. The third in their college group is Daniel (Jeff Miller), whos in a long-term relationship with the unseen Reg.

Gradually, its revealed that pretty much everyone else at the party except Guy has slept with Reg. Will Daniel ever find out?

Its hard to write about the plays other two acts because theyre set after the funerals of characters whove died of AIDS-related illness. After the first revelation, theres a morbid Whos going to die next? feel to the proceedings which cant be intentional.

Strangely, no one talks about AIDS protection, prevention or treatment. Unlike the American plays, theres nothing remotely political about it. And, except for a cheerful toast to gross indecency, theres no context about queer life before them.

Whats surprising is how, even with so thin a script, the fine actors help pass the time pleasantly. Wilson, seen too infrequently onstage, is especially affecting as the lovelorn Guy. His scenes with John are powerful because you can sense the two mean different things to each other.

And Alex Furber has a wonderful spontaneity as Eric, the younger working class man Guys hired to paint his apartment.

Erics concern for those around him sets him apart from the others. But Im not sure whether Elyot is using him to comment about class or the generation gap.

Apart from the idea of trust and getting older, theres little for queer or straight audiences to relate to in this amusing, but dated show.

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