I HAVE AIDS! written and directed by Sky Gilbert (Buddies in Bad Times, 12 Alexander). To May 3. $15-?$20. 416-?975-?8555. See listing. Rating: NNNN
Considering the attention-grabbing title of I Have AIDS!, the latest play by celebrated queer writer/director Sky Gilbert begins rather nonchalantly.
Prodon (Gavin Crawford), a young, hip stand-up comic, comes home to his stylish lover, Vidor (David Yee), flops down on the couch and agonizes over Tori Spelling's cardboard performance on 90210. Then, as an afterthought, he says, "Oh, I almost forgot. I have AIDS."
Prodon's initial straightforwardness sets the tone for Gilbert's endeavour: to normalize the diagnosis/disease for a post-drug-cocktail world where infection is no longer a death sentence.
Resisting, and even wryly mocking the tragic tropes of outdated AIDS plays, Gilbert keeps the mostly comic script wickedly funny, yet always returns to the idea that our conceptions of HIV/AIDS need serious updating.
Spoofing both self-help writer Louise Hay's advice and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's stages of grief, he structures the play around the five stages of disease: denial, partying, loss of control, religious conversion and acceptance.
Despite some opening-night technical glitches and a few flubbed lines during the slow-moving opening scene, Crawford and Yee do an excellent job of charting Prodon's often comical emotional evolution.
Things come to a head in the "religious conversion" stage, when Prodon converts to an outmoded identity - that of the stereotypical AIDS patient. Vidor's argument that Prodon's disease needn't redefine his personality is the keystone of Gilbert's important message.