Under the gentle but insightful guidance of director Anne Hulegard, the last few months in the deteriorating lives of roommates Max (Simon Harvey), Billy (Edward Trucco) and Tony (Rodney Van Johnson) are chronicled, punctuated by one-on-one therapy sessions with the AIDS project doctor (Kurtwood Smith) and the cathartic visits of Max's ex-lover Jason (Jasper Cole). Hulegard keeps the tone light and humor-filled, emphasizing the unique character traits of the men rather than the morbid severity of their situation.

Under the gentle but insightful guidance of director Anne Hulegard, the last few months in the deteriorating lives of roommates Max (Simon Harvey), Billy (Edward Trucco) and Tony (Rodney Van Johnson) are chronicled, punctuated by one-on-one therapy sessions with the AIDS project doctor (Kurtwood Smith) and the cathartic visits of Max’s ex-lover Jason (Jasper Cole). Hulegard keeps the tone light and humor-filled, emphasizing the unique character traits of the men rather than the morbid severity of their situation.

Harvey offers an often hilarious yet melancholy portrayal of the ex-schoolteacher Max, who uses his sarcastic wit and superior intelligence as armor in a feeble effort to distance himself from the outside world. Harvey gives credence to a man who is personally debauched, yet is truly inspired to be an educator of youth.

TX: TX:The Tracy Roberts Theatre in association with Wey-Man Prods. presents a play in two acts by Robin Swados, directed by Anne Hulegard. Trucco exudes a wonderful quality as Billy, a small-town boy in the big city and a pianist/composer who has adjusted to the reality of his fate but cannot face his family back home. As the extremely ill Tony, Rodney Van Johnson is quite believable as a dying man, filled with rage that he will never be allowed to fulfill his quest to become a working actor. And Cole is understated but effective as Jason, who is patient but persistent in his desire to have Max accept him back in his life.

Kurtwood Smith is a calming presence as the offstage voice of the doctor/therapist. In future performances, this role will rotate among a number of well-known entertainment industry personalities, including actors Dennis Christopher, Robert Horton and Deborah Lacey, as well as comedian Kym Whitley.

Frannie Smith’s apartment setting is properly tawdry and claustrophobic, aided by Brian Mahanay’s simple yet functional lighting design. Less effective is Robin Swados’ somber incidental music, which actually works against the mood established by the fine work of the actors.

A Quiet End

Production

A Quiet End (Tracy Roberts Theater; 70 seats; $ 20 top)

Crew

Sets, Frannie Smith; lighting, Brian Mahanay; original music, Swados. Opened Feb. 2, 1996; reviewed Feb. 3; runs through Feb. 24. Running time: 2 hours.

With

Cast: Simon Harvey (Max), Edward Trucco (Billy), Rodney Van Johnson (Tony), Jasper Cole (Jason), Kurtwood Smith (Doctor). The term AIDS is never mentioned in Robin Swados' wordy character study of three dying men who must come to terms with their unfinished lives and fragile mortality. Written in 1986, well after the disease had become an established fact, the play still treats AIDS as some mysterious, malevolent force of nature, directed primarily at gay men. Set in a seedy Manhattan AIDS project co-op apartment, the play has little plot development, and the responsibility for its success lies squarely on the talents of the director and actors. Fortunately for Swados, this production from the Beverly Hills-based Tracy Roberts Theatre has talent aplenty.
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