Lonely Planet | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Lonely Planet 

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LONELY PLANET, Equity Library Theatre, at the Players Workshop. "Anything said or done about AIDS that does not give precedence to the knowledge, the needs, and the demands of people living with AIDS must be condemned." Douglas Crimp's seminal bit of cultural criticism may be untenably extreme, but if it will prevent anyone from ever again producing Steven Dietz's noxiously flip "AIDS play" Lonely Planet, I'll endorse it 100 percent.

AIDS has taken an emotional toll on Jody; after seeing so many friends die he is afraid to leave his map store. Holed up with mysterious longtime customer Carl, Jody relates strange dreams, explains the origin of the Mercator projection, listens to Carl's elaborate lies about his daily life, and every so often sputters something like "My friends are dying! This is terrible!" Then he wrings his hands until Dietz can stuff another hackneyed metaphor in his mouth. No psychology, no worldview, only gimmicks.

Dietz seems committed to little except invoking his right to digress, confusing florid linguistic embellishment with drama. The play, given a spiritless, unlikable production by Equity Library Theatre, degenerates from pointless to offensive in the final few scenes, as Jody at last conquers his fear, leaves his store, and takes an HIV test. He's a hero for making sure that he's safe--not for helping those already afflicted or, God forbid, doing anything to try to end the epidemic. Silence may equal death for those in the midst of plague, but for Dietz solipsism equals life. --Justin Hayford

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