KPBS AIRDATE: January 11, 2002
In my book, Paul Rudnick is the King of Comedy. Only he could make the AIDS era hilarious — without pandering or offending. He is what you might call ‘seriously funny.’
“Jeffrey,” his 1993 play that he turned into a so-so movie, is a laugh-yourself-sick evening of theater. It’s by far the funniest play I saw all year –and that would be last year, when it opened.
Director Tim Irving has tickled our collective funny bones many times in the past, and in 2001 he staged a boffo “Most Fabulous Story Ever Told” and a deliciously nasty “Boys in the Band.” But with “Jeffrey,” he’s reached the humor heights; he’s at the peak of the pinnacle. His casting is superb; their timing’s impeccable; the pace is aptly rapid. There isn’t one false step here. It’s a pitch-perfect production.
Jeffrey is a promiscuous but squeamish gay guy who’s bedded more men than a platoon of prostitutes. But it’s 1992, and his friends are dropping like their flies from AIDS, and he’s frozen with fear. So, what’s a girl to do? Celibacy is the only answer; abstinence, he thinks, will make his heart grow fonder, or not. But it’s hard — and he needs help. It all backfires, though — he gets scared off by the self-stimulation club, the TV sex therapist is a certifiable wacko, the priest is a sex fiend. And then there’s that HIV-positive hunk at the gym who’s pursuing him relentlessly. A whiplash-inducing cast of characters encourages Jeffrey to stay safe but let himself love, or, as one of them puts it, “Fear AIDS, not life.” A decade later, millions more dead and dying daily, and a terrorist disaster behind us, it’s still not bad advice.
As Jeffrey, Adam Edwards is terrific, but he does mincing, whiney gay so incredibly well, I’d like to see if he’s got the range and chops to play a straight character some time. As his would-be boyfriend, Wes Culwell is adorable. And backing them up is a knockout ensemble. It’s great to see Sean Ingram back onstage, and Keith Wright and Angelo d’Agostino-Wilimek continue to amuse and entertain. Laura Bozanich and Manuel Fernandes do their best work in years, in an ever-changing array of hysterically quirky characters in consistently whimsical wigs and costumes.
Unless you’re blind to the news, deaf to the world, totally humorless or horrifically homophobic, this is one of the funniest shows you may ever encounter. See it, be safe; don’t be sorry.
©2002 Patté Productions Inc