Tragicomedy from the 1980s epidemic
This article is from 2015.
Thirty years after its premiere Off-Broadway, William M Hoffman’s Tony Award-nominated play about the impact of HIV / AIDS on the LGBT community in 1980s New York still has the power to move and infuriate, in this often brilliant production at the Bedlam Theatre.
After discovering that he has contracted the HIV virus, Rich is confronted with the unenviable task of telling those that he cares about. His family are wary and numb from a lack of education, while his lover abandons him in fear of contracting the illness himself. Rich's self-destructive spiral down the spiritual plug hole is saved only by his former partner, Saul, who takes him in as he slowly comes to terms with his life, sickness and mortality.
Despite its subject matter, As Is is funny. Some of the humour can be a bit obvious, outdated and even stereotypical, but there is a joy that makes the struggle of facing the end just that little bit more acceptable.
The performances by the entire cast, but especially by the two leads, Blake Kubena and Joey Bartram, are exceptional: as the play shifts to its inevitable, heartbreaking conclusion, they bring out the script's pathos eloquently.
But the play's message is love: love of life, the love of one another. Profound, joyous and life affirming, As Is is a show to be cherished and remembered.
Bedlam Theatre, 629 0430, until Aug 30 (not 17), 11.30am, £10 (£8).