Hurricane Damage dives into the wreck of the AIDS crisis | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Hurricane Damage dives into the wreck of the AIDS crisis 

Even with a hunky handyman, there's no escape.

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Paul Goyette

When the AIDS epidemic became a seemingly inescapable menace to gay men in the early 1980s, lovers Oscar and Dennis fled New York City for their vacation home on the Florida gulf coast, imagining the storm would soon blow over. Three decades later they're still there, clutching their way through what may be the despairing final gasps of their self-imposed exile, with only the blinkered good nature of their young, hunky, live-in handyman Ford Angel to inject a bit of life into the sepulchral manse—which has been freshly ravaged by a more literal kind of storm. Into the mix wanders Norman, a long-lost member of their 1970s gay inner circle. His arrival sparks long-buried resentments as well as a few unlikely seeds of hope for a bearable future.

The story all but invites a Tennessee Williamsesque metaphorical oversaturation, a pitfall New York playwright Kevin Brofsky admirably avoids. And like Williams, Brofsky is largely concerned with his characters and their relationships—to one another and, perhaps more centrally, to their romanticized and obliterated pasts—rather than forwarding a plot. Given the underrehearsed feel of director Paul Cook's world-premiere staging for Pride Films and Plays, it's difficult to gauge Brofsky's success; while the script's broad contours are solidly in place, the interpersonal nuances that might give the production a fuller dimension are largely absent.

Everyone's past ends up erased, of course. Brofsky reminds us just how harrowing that experience has been for the Reagan-era gay men who survived.   v

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