To Have and to Hold | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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To Have and to Hold


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To Have and to Hold, Bailiwick Repertory.

Paul Harris's likable if generic comedy charts familiar territory for the gay audience and for those who've seen Jeffrey. Heavy on the confessional therapy, it charts the relationship of two gay New Yorkers in their 30s who both have HIV. Knowing they're "living on death row," they're seeking "a sense of continuity." They meet impersonally--on-line--but make up for lost time, discovering that their love outweighs their separate sorrows. Jim is an accountant by day and a closeted stand-up comic by night, Michael a banker who slums it as a Marilyn Monroe impersonator. Their first date, in Michael's loft apartment, is the subject of the first act.

The second act, after exposing us to Michael's unremarkable drag performance, finally provides some conflict and resolution: Michael struggles to get over his fear of being abandoned, and Jim tries to overcome his remorse over assisting the suicide of a lover. And that's all they wrote--for some audience members it won't be enough, despite persuasive performances by Steve Matuszak as wisecracking but heartbroken Jim and David Krajecki as Michael (a role that comes perilously close to Arnold Beckoff in Torch Song Trilogy). Steady but slow, David Zak's staging grounds the lovers in a recognizable reality; the downside is that we're always ahead of the--well, not "action," but relationship.

Harris, who's lived with the virus for 11 years and has lost a lover to AIDS, knows this tale from the inside out. But as sincerely as he tells it, To Have and to Hold remains sadly routine--yet more proof that this tragedy has gone on too long.

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