This style of theater and the fear and paranoia of AIDS in the early s seem tailor-made for each other. The basic scenario, and the searing afterimage of "Beirut," is of a seminude man and woman in a small, dark room, dissecting the nature of their relationship. He lives in a quarantine zone on the Lower East Side known as Beirut, and she leaves her Brooklyn home, at great risk, to break the quarantine and see him. As drawn by Bowne, the duo are at an impasse: He aches for intimacy with her, but fears infecting her which, he notes, would be tantamount to murder. She aches for intimacy with him no matter the risks. There is a third character, played by Rick Kopps as an unwilling member of the "lesion patrol" sent to make random visits to the infected.
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Does it resonate with today? Does its emotional machinery still have an impact? We first meet Torch as the lights go up, naked and sweating, performing pull-ups in a hellish downtown hovel. Torch is in quarantine, yet to show the signs of the infection that is eating up the planet. Blue, still clear of the virus, is desperate to touch her lover, to kiss him, to fuck, even if these intimacies could lead to her death.
The action that follows is simple: a couple argue over whether to have sex. The stakes, however, are far from domestic. In this world, sex can easily equal death. To the audience of , the parallels would have been obvious and challenging, pulled from the real world around them, stoking their personal fears. But what about the audience of , more than 30 years later? Our lives are also dangerously digital: where the atrocities of power are all-too apparent and persuasion is pervasive.
We are toughened and experienced, and maybe cocooned … maybe a little cynical about the obvious, the poetical, the blunt and sincere. All of the things that Beirut lays at our feet. Only here the illness was not HIV, despite expectations. Sherman neatly side-lined HIV to focus on the interplay of people: the illness here was hepatitis.
Similarly, Bowne side-steps the obvious: his couple are straight, not gay. They are East-Side stock, from the district of Queens, rough and sharp and sexual, confident in their opinions.
Their names are poetic: Blue and Torch. Evoking the lighting of blue-touch paper and fireworks, maybe even erotica and lip-synch. The dramatic design, just as with Sherman, is to use the virus as a back drop, and not the thing itself. In this light, Beirut is not about disease or physical dysfunction. Like the salty, poetical language, the characters are also designed to connect beyond specifics.
The performances are nuanced, not representing. They ooze sex and an earthy East Side swagger, their accents growing in confidence as the hour ticks by. Director Robin Lefevre has them grind and tease, but also open up and transform as they each push their agendas. Together, the team create a typically domestic battle that morphs into an argument for love.
But I think this misses the point. This is not a play about disease. Nor does this production play it as one. It is a story about how we handle the sudden changes to our physical and political world. To be felt as something that connects with everyday fears and realities. For the woman that recognises the hell of her world with humour, this feels a little dated: stripping and succumbing when it suits to titillate.
Is Beirut a play for our times? Can it do as it did in its day? This is not the same provocation it was back then. More of what Bowne intended. More abstract and therefore more powerful.
It blends the actual world and the imagined, and talks to us about what keeps us sane, keeps us together in this increasingly controlling world.
BEIRUT ALAN BOWNE PDF
It can be reasonably assumed that such positives, so to speak, such as Torch Robert Rees , have a strain of the virus that is resistant to various medications. Not all medicines are ineffective. Whatever it is that Torch takes, it seems to slow down the increasingly debilitating effects of the syndrome. Increasing trepidation and plain ignorance in this futuristic society has caused whatever form of government still exists to enforce laws to this effect.
Goltira alzn Funding period Feb 12, — Apr 12, 60 days. Premier Logo Created with Sketch. AnnaRosa rated it it was amazing Jan 24, Meghana34 rated it really liked it Apr 22, An industrialist in the near future utilizes every means possible to get an inventor to sign over his revolutionary creation that will inevitably change the world. With the proper ID card, safety is right next door. Tim Janes rated it liked it Feb 26, Set in an apocalyptic future where a young man named Torch has been quarantined to a dark, squalid room on the Lower East Side of New York City, after testing positive for a nameless, sexually transmitted disease.
Beirut by Alan Bowne at Park Theatre | Review