The message of the brand new musical, “Eighty-Sixed,” is stronger and poignant than ever proper now: “Don’t neglect us. Keep in mind our names.”
Set within the Eighties, however principally in 1986, it’s about those that struggled with, died of and survived the lethal HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Greater than 700,000 folks within the U.S. have succumbed to AIDS/HIV-related sickness. There’s the ever-expanding AIDS quilt, however thus far, “The Grove” in San Francisco is the nation’s sole federally designated Nationwide AIDS Memorial.
And, how will we commemorate the 1 million (and counting) who’ve died of COVID-19? Or the hundreds of innocents (together with schoolchildren) killed in mass shootings?
“Eighty-Sixed,” primarily based on the 1989 novel of the identical identify, written by AIDS activist David B. Feinberg (who died of AIDS in 1994, at age 37), is concentrated on the homosexual group, which was introduced collectively on the similar time it was ravaged, each torn aside and united by AIDS.
The ebook was an irreverent confessional by a personality named Benjamin Joseph Rosenthal (presumably a stand-in for the creator) who, within the midst of the insanity, has shut himself off from emotional connection.
In his bed room, he retains an enormous jar, full of little slips of paper, every holding a reputation, date, perhaps a cellphone quantity, and an figuring out function or two of a person he’d attached with.
The primary half of the chronologically organized ebook, set in 1980, is a hyper-sexed illustration of the wanton, hedonistic scene in homosexual bars, golf equipment and bathhouses. Within the musical, that freewheeling time is captured in flashbacks.
Many of the motion (resembling it’s) takes place in 1986, with the New 12 months opening the present. The title additionally displays the quantity on the onstage bathhouse/disco door, and will discuss with the Thirties soda-jerk slang that means “to throw out” or “do away with.”
The central character, who goes by the provocative moniker ‘BJ,” is at first in denial, after which, terrified by what’s happening round him. Too terrified to get examined (Reagan’s authorities will discover out all the things about him). Tons of individuals he has identified and/or had intercourse with are getting sick and dying, and he can’t even recall their names.
That is very true of Bob (bleakly humorous, affecting Sean Doherty), who thought they’d a particular connection, however BJ has no recollection.
As Bob lies dying within the hospital, BJ tries to assuage his personal guilt, recapture his reminiscence and do the precise factor by visiting repeatedly.
He not is aware of who he’s, however as he retains insisting, he’s making an attempt to turn out to be a greater individual.
As he connects with Dave (strong, compelling Jordan Barbour), Bob’s devoted caregiver, for whom that is the second lover to fall to AIDS, BJ begins to get a extra lifelike image of what’s happening.
He isn’t probably the most sympathetic protagonist, however he makes an effort: he learns, he grows, he tries. And he vows to be a kind of who keep in mind.
“Eighty-Sixed” has been in improvement for almost 9 years, although it nonetheless wants some tweaking, shaping and shortening.
This world premiere is being introduced, most appropriately, at Diversionary Theatre, which was based in 1986, on the top of the HIV/AIDS disaster, in an effort to offer a platform for the LGBT+ group. After 36 years of doing so, it’s now the third-oldest queer theater within the nation, and that is certainly one of its largest efforts.
The creators of the musical (ebook by Jeremy J. King, music and often-clever lyrics by Sam Salmond) are too younger to recollect the instances they’re writing about. However, as artists of their 30s, they’re wanting again and ahead, hoping to move on to their era and people developing after them, a way of what these years had been like.
For these of us who lived by means of that terrible period, a lot of what’s within the piece has been seen earlier than. We even have perspective on the devastating brain-drain within the arts group particularly.
The present’s manufacturing staff options prolific New York-based director Kevin Newbury, choreographer Raja Feather Kelly and music director Steven Cuevas, in addition to eight Fairness actors in a 12-member forged (native favourite Allison Spratt Pearce was changed by her understudy, Kelly Prendergast, on the efficiency I attended). There’s a positive 4-piece band onstage, carried out by keyboardist Patrick Marion.
As BJ, Preston Sadleir is confused and clueless at first, indifferent from his emotions; he’s the one absolutely fleshed-out character with a story arc.
Amongst these he interacts with, probably the most notable are Bob and Dave (Doherty and Barbour), in addition to BJ’s fearless ex, Richard, a fellow-writer (Frankie Alicea-Ford, affiliate creative director at Diversionary). And Rachel (Farah Dinga), BJ’s solely shut pal.
The unpredictable, difficult however in some methods repetitive rating didn’t strike me as very 80s-sounding, though it was reportedly impressed by the likes of Elton John and Fleetwood Mac. There have been some enjoyable or touching numbers, however no catchy melodies to stroll out singing
The message is the medium right here, to invert the basic 1964 Marshall McLuhan quote.
This present’s message is far-reaching, past simply the ‘80s or AIDS: encouraging the group — not simply the homosexual group, however the American group — to come back collectively to maintain alive the names of these we’ve tragically misplaced. It couldn’t be extra related.
“Eighty-Sixed”runs at Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Blvd. in College Heights. It has been prolonged twice, to June 26
Performances are Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
Tickets ($20-$60) can be found at 619-220-0097 or www.diversionary.org
Operating time: 1 hr. 50 min., with no intermission
Pat Launer, a member of the American Theatre Critics Affiliation, is a long-time San Diego arts author and an Emmy Award-winning theater critic. An archive of her previews and evaluations will be discovered at patlauner.com.