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The 24th Day

Evening begins with Tom (Berg) bringing Dan (Wyle) to his apartment after they meet at a bar. Their friendly banter takes on a different tone when Dan makes a move on the obviously uncomfortable Tom, but the awkward moment appears to pass.

Evening begins with Tom (Berg) bringing Dan (Wyle) to his apartment after they meet at a bar. Their friendly banter takes on a different tone when Dan makes a move on the obviously uncomfortable Tom, but the awkward moment appears to pass.

However, it soon becomes clear that Tom has more on his mind than a date. He’s convinced that it was Dan who infected him with HIV, the AIDS virus, and he plans to hold Dan captive in his apartment until his blood (which Tom draws) can be tested. Dan fervently denies Tom’s charges, but Tom overpowers him and handcuffs him to a chair.

For 48 hours — until the test results are in — the men talk, fight, negotiate, get to know each other. Tom reveals his life story and Dan tries to talk him into letting him go. Dan is glib, the sort for whom life has been easy; Tom is earnest, depressed, defeated by circumstance. By turns touching and humorous, the play is at its best in this middle section.

Piccirillo stacks the deck somewhat: Tom insists that Dan is the only man he’s slept with, and he repeatedly catches Dan in lies as they talk. But Dan forcefully sticks to his story that he’s been tested annually and the result always has been negative, and he sounds convincing. The suspense doesn’t exactly build, but it is sustained, at least until the rather flat ending.

Perfs are strong, though at times Wyle doesn’t seem to fully inhabit his character; he appears to be holding back a little from the uncomfortable situation in which Dan finds himself. Also, the character of Dan doesn’t change much emotionally during the play, giving the actor little to work with. In contrast, Berg’s character goes through a series of emotional ups and downs, revealing himself to his captive, trying to explain why he’s doing this. Berg plays the part for all it’s worth.

Director Paul Lazarus keeps the play moving at a reasonable pace, although between-scene blackouts drag. Uncredited music during scene changes is unnecessarily melodramatic. Other tech credits are excellent, including subtly telling costumes by Kathleen Detoro (Dan wears Hugo Boss; Tom is clad in J. Crew), authentic-looking set by Edward E. Haynes Jr. and realistic lighting by Anne Militello.

The 24th Day

Production: The 24th Day (Coronet Theater; 272 seats; $ 39.50 top) Seth Flicker and Michael Filerman in association with Grossbart/Barnett Prods. present the world premiere of a play in one act by Anthony Piccirillo. Directed by Paul Lazarus.

Creative: Set design, Edward E. Haynes Jr.; lighting, Anne Militello; costumes, Kathleen Detoro; sound, Joe Romano; fight direction, Randy Kovitz. Opened, reviewed March 9, 1996; runs through April 14. Running time: 1 hour, 30 min.

Cast: With: Noah Wyle (Dan), Peter Berg (Tom). Peter Berg and Noah Wyle play the blame game in Anthony Piccirillo's first full-length play, an elaborate revenge scenario revolving around the omnipresent villain AIDS. The New York-based writer takes on big themes: responsibility, accepting one's fate, life and death. The big-name cast brings added respectability to his fledgling effort.

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