Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Review - My AiDS (At Hand Theatre Company)

By Byrne Harrison
Photo by Matthew Murphy

It seems everyone who moves to New York has a story to tell about it. They arrive, wide-eyed and naive, planning to take the city by storm. They usually get their asses handed to them, but in the process learn a lot about "Life" and "Themselves." At least that's what they think.

Every year or two, some fresh-faced, mid-to-late-twenty-something will put together a one-man show (or, God forbid, a cabaret), and pass along five or so years of collected wisdom - having to take a menial job so they can audition, not getting cast in Broadway plays even though they were way more talented than everyone else, hooking up with an endless list of Craiglist tricks, each of whom had a more unusual fetish than the last. At the end of the show, they act as though they've accomplished something amazing and unique by not having given up and moved back home.

Believe me, I've seen a lot of them. And being in my forties, I will admit to just a touch of schadenfreude, knowing what the next decade has in store for most of these kids.

That's why it's refreshing to hear someone a little older, just into his thirties, who actually has something interesting to say about his life in New York, and who is an apt enough writer to create stories that are more than just humorous and entertaining - they actually relate to one another and build a nice dramatic arc.

Dan Horrigan was a fresh-faced young man who moved to New York with the same dreams that many others had. He dealt with apartment snafus, had the requisite insufferable, depressing job, and discovered the anesthetizing comforts of drinking, drugs, and sex. The hook in Dan's story, as the title indicates, is when he finds out about "His AIDS." In fact, what he finds out is that he is HIV+, but he thinks of it and refers to it as a separate entity - his AIDS - an object like a shirt or chair that has a physical presence and influence.

My AiDS really isn't about AIDS, HIV, or living in New York, of course, it's about Horrigan's journey to adulthood. One of the strengths of this play, compared to so many similar ones, is that at the end, Horrigan doesn't claim to have figured everything out or to have learned "The Secret of Life." He's not the man he was. He's not the man he will be. But he's maturing and growing up. And sometimes that's enough.

While Horrigan is a good writer and an amusing and personable storyteller, he is a somewhat limited actor. At his best moments, it's easy to imagine that you're sitting in your friend Dan's living room, having a chat about his life. In these moments, Horrigan is open, relaxed, and fully at ease. The stories flow with a feeling of immediacy. Much of the play, however, Horrigan appears self-conscious and a bit too aware of the reaction he wants or expects from the audience. In fairness, this is Horrigan's first solo show, a difficult endeavor to begin with, and considering that he has spent most of his career as a producer and director, his lack of polish as an actor is forgivable.

One other note about this production of My AiDS, Lighting Designer Zach Blane has done an exemplary job. His lighting design is unobtrusive and nuanced, subtly reinforcing Horrigan's storytelling. Without question Blane is a talented designer worth keeping an eye on.

Written and performed by Dan Horrigan
Directed by Dave Solomon
Producer: Justin Scribner
Associate Producer: Laura A. Wright
Lighting Designer: Zach Blane
Set Designer: Shoko Kambara
Assistant Set Designer: Sam Froeschle
Press Representative: Shane Marshall Brown
Event Coordinator: T.J. Fix
Graphic Designer: Jeff Hardy

Urban Stages
259 West 30th Street

Saturdays at 10:30 PM
Sundays and Mondays at 7:00 PM

Through March 1st

1 comment:

Antonio Minino said...

So glad you liked "My AiDS," this is a group of people full of heart and I know the piece is a work in progress, so it will only get better.

Great work on all the Frigid interviews!