All That He Was | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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All That He Was


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All That He Was, Transplant Theater Company, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Larry Johnson and Cindy O'Connor's musical about AIDS was written some seven years ago--and its age shows. Transplant Theater Company can give its debut production wit and heart, but the show isn't saying anything new, and it takes two hours without an intermission to do so. There's a character for every possible perspective on an AIDS patient's illness, and each gets a song: the devoted lover, radical lesbian counselor, HIV-positive friend, high school girlfriend, doctor, teacher, political candidate, devoutly religious sister, and three other family members. Even "the Man" whose funeral prompts this sometimes overwrought survey of devotion and denial has his moment in the spotlight before the show reaches its tear-jerking conclusion.

Despite some technical flaws--there are dead spots in the lighting, and Jennifer Elise's blocking sometimes puts actors out of sight--the Transplant staging has its strengths. Ryan Waite, Erin Mosher, Bailey Boudreau, and especially Marilyn Bielby as the Man's sister give their characters depth. And accompanying the sentimental ballads are some truly lively commentaries like "Here's the Situation," which mocks George W. Bush and the Clintons. But overall the show needs focus and freshening up. --Jenn Goddu

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