Review by guest blogger Tony Bohn:
Lonely Planet is the latest production from West of Lenin in Fremont. Written and directed by Steven Dietz, the show is set in a small map shop during the height of the AIDS crisis and follows the shifting relationship of two close friends as they manage their way through the challenges and fear that the crisis brings. Jody (played by Michael Winters) is the reclusive shop owner whose fear of the crisis has made him too scared to leave the shop. Carl (portrayed by Reginald André Jackson) is Jody’s flamboyant free-spirited friend who visits the shop daily to check on Jody and report back on his day and what’s going on in the world. The acting is brilliant, and both the actors and well-written script are able to find the delicate balance between comedy and drama throughout the production.
Some of the most captivating elements of this production are the use of the set pieces and lighting to symbolize and highlight key plot points as well as the effects of the AIDS crisis on the lives of the two men. The use of the chairs (soooooo many chairs!) and the maps in the shop (including their cartographic history) is particularly well done.
In a time where antiretroviral medications for the treatment of HIV disease and prevention of transmission through PrEP have stopped HIV disease from becoming the death sentence it used to be, many young folks no longer remember what it was like back then. Lonely Planet is an important reminder of the struggles the LGBTQ community went through. It shows us what it was like to have half your friends dying of a new disease nobody knew anything about; a disease that came with a ton of societal stigma. It also reminds us of the importance of getting tested and treated, regardless of how scared we are, and protecting ourselves and others from HIV transmission.
Lonely Planet runs until Sun, Nov 18 and tickets can be purchased here.
Photos via West of Lenin