Off

Diverse and engaging monologues, involving five men and one woman, come to life through grisly newspaper headlines. The characters are not connected by class, race, sexual preference or HIV status. What they share is that each has killed another human being.

With:
Cissy/Chuck ... Rodney Hargrove Bud/Neal ... Jeffrey Paul Whitman Joey/Carmen ... Gil Ferrales Gritty, graphic and grand writing, acting and directing make "off" an on-target production illuminating the pain and devastation of AIDS and HIV.

Diverse and engaging monologues, involving five men and one woman, come to life through grisly newspaper headlines. The characters are not connected by class, race, sexual preference or HIV status. What they share is that each has killed another human being.

The characters include a black transvestite who has an affair with a married prison guard; a Vietnam vet who is a Jeffrey Dahmer type; a Hispanic boy who was picked up by a high-powered Hollywood producer (for whom sex play involves using his Oscar); and a mother who cares for her son, a Broadway musical star who has AIDS.

Playwright Michael Kearns paints poignant portraits of pain, pathos and victimization in his multidimensional, fully developed characters. The subject matter never gets morose or manipulative because Kearns tempers every heart-wrenching blow with a cynical, biting, burst of humor.

Since Kearns is also an actor, his visual, poetic writing style creates the kind of dialogue and roles that actors crave. He creates an ideal showcase for a trio of diverse actors who deliver tour de force performances.

Rodney Hargrove is endearing as the transvestite and intriguingly loathsome as Chuck, whose sexual prowess has been desired by teachers, family members and practically everyone he has ever encountered.

Jeffrey Paul Whitman is spellbinding as he describes how he mutilates his victims after lovemaking. This portrayal is contrasted later by Neal, a Southern boy who is an “I Love Lucy” fanatic.

Though all the acting is top-notch, Gil Ferrales steals the show as Joey, a party boy turned actor who “parties with Hollywood’s closeted queens.” Ferrales gives the one female portrayal in the show, a breathtaking Carmen, who rhapsodizes about how she sent her young son to dancing school with her alimony money, only to be spending her time now watching him wither into an old man who wants to end his life.

Director Colin Martin’s dramatic staging is most effective when the characters are relaxed and reflective, as in Carmen and Neal. He has directed the actors to create totally focused, committed portrayals.

The NoHo Studio is the first theater space in the Valley created to explore gay and lesbian issues for a broader audience.

Off

(NoHo Studios, North Hollywood; 42 seats; $ 10 top)

Production: Artists Confronting AIDS in association with NoHo Studios presents a drama in one act by Michael Kearns; exec director, James Carroll Pickett; director, Colin Martin.

Creative: Lighting, sound design, Marc Saccomano. Opened, reviewed July 11, 1993; runs indefinitely.

Cast: Cissy/Chuck ... Rodney Hargrove Bud/Neal ... Jeffrey Paul Whitman Joey/Carmen ... Gil Ferrales Gritty, graphic and grand writing, acting and directing make "off" an on-target production illuminating the pain and devastation of AIDS and HIV.

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