T-Cells & Sympathy | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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T-Cells & Sympathy

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T-Cells & Sympathy, Circle Theatre. Perhaps the only thing more tedious than listening to people talk about their sex lives is listening to them complain about their symptoms. In T-Cells & Sympathy, Circle Theatre's production of monologues by Michael Kearns, we get generous helpings of both. Director Karen Skinner introduces us to four desperate HIV-positive addicts (three of whom are homeless, one of whom is a prostitute with painted-on Kaposi's sarcoma lesions the size of half-dollar pancakes); a married flamenco dancer who discovers "the truth" in the form of a penis up his rectum; an overbearing fag hag in training eulogizing a gay friend dead from AIDS; and a Bible-thumping mother convinced that God gave her AIDS to punish her for turning her son gay. All in "celebration" of gay pride month.

These tortured, self-indulgent portraits of mostly urban throwaways may be revelatory to those who think HIV hasn't wandered far from Halsted and Belmont. And most of the performances are admirably restrained if frustratingly distant, since Skinner has set the show just about as far from the audience as possible. But the tedium becomes debilitating with Kearns's stupefyingly implausible one-act Mijo, about a leather daddy who barges into the apartment of a dying fuckbuddy, self-righteously rubs his sexual exploits in the face of the dying man's mother, and thereby persuades her to help him kill her son. This arduous evening, wrenching its way through two and a half hours, rarely misses an opportunity for a choked-back sob. Make that "T-Cells & Self-Pity."

--Justin Hayford

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