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The Club 

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THE CLUB, Bailiwick Repertory. This is the third work to play here by Madrid St. Angelo, AIDS activist and ardent chronicler. Like Watchdog and a Vision Like St. Paul's (penned before the introduction of new AIDS treatments), The Club depicts AIDS as a death sentence. And like Love, Love, Love and More Love, it focuses--to excess--on a drag queen who serves as mother confessor, advice columnist, cheerleader, and therapist.

The setting is a club for Manhattan's prettiest HIV positive guys, who meet at the home of rotund, coke-snorting Momma. Hard-boiled but softhearted, she employs tough love and earthy quips to amuse and instruct a quartet of young PWAs: a skeptical hustler, an ex-porn star who still practices unsafe sex, a defiant model, and a staunch maverick who soon turns on Momma. Her rather defeatist project is to help them construct their panels for the AIDS quilt, but a final revelation reveals her to be a pious fraud.

What she gives them--or the audience--is hard to gauge. A dead ringer for the late Divine, Daisy Mae anchors Brian Gary Kirst's sturdy Pride '97 staging with a resilient trash talk you won't hear on Oprah. But Momma's call-and-response interplay with her four impatient patients is nothing more than feel-good self-help. Though the discussion ranges from moonstruck poeticizing to strangely sentimental sex stories, The Club has no plot to set the stakes and fuel the talk. --Lawrence Bommer

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