beirut by Alan Bowne, directed by Kevin Kincaid, with Marcello Cabezas, Jane Haddad and Kincaid. Presented by Basement Apartment Productions at System SoundBar (117 Peter). Runs to November 25, Thursday-Sunday 8 pm. $12, Sunday pwyc. 416-831-0841. Rating: N
i'm all for staging plays in non-traditional venues, but the decision to produce U.S. playwright Alan Bowne's Beirut in the club System SoundBar disappoints on all fronts.Penned in 1985 by a writer who would die of AIDS-related illness four years later, the play is set in a futuristic dystopia where those who test positive for an unnamed virus are quarantined in a section of New York City dubbed Beirut.
The infected Torch (Marcello Cabezas, whose eight-pack abs are more impressive than his acting talent) gets a nighttime visit from his lover Blue (Jane Haddad), who's bought a black-market tattoo to pretend to be positive so she can stand by her man.
After some clearly exploitative scenes -- including a bit of bum-flashing and a genital massage -- the play hammers out its single, monotonous theme: these are lovers in dangerous times.
Bowne's attempts at creating a gritty urban patois feels fake, like a bad Clockwork Orange imitation, and the actors can't make the language or situations believable. But really, who could read a line like, "You dickless dink of a copout" with a straight face?
Why the show, which reeks of hysteria, is being put on now is bewildering. AIDS isn't the story it was 16 years ago.
What's more disappointing is the non-use of the club. SoundBar has a futuristic feel, with a set of TV screens in the back suggesting lots of visual possibilities.
Unfortunately, director Kevin Kincaid opts for the Bio 101-meets-MuchMusic video approach.