Virus among us


Rated 3.0

Talk about a moral dilemma! The Lambda Players’ Catch is a simply staged show that’s provocative in multiple, deliberate ways. First we meet Tom. A middle-aged gay man emerging from a decade-long relationship, he feels like he’s stepping out of a time warp.

Tom enters a star-crossed relationship with Bob, a younger man who’s had sex, recently, with many guys. Bob says he’ll give up that lifestyle to settle down with Tom. They go for an HIV test, and they’re shocked when one tests positive. Soon, the “clean” member of this couple announces a plan to deliberately acquire the AIDS virus, so that they can continue together as equals. His underlying assumption is that with modern meds, you can live with HIV pretty much indefinitely, right?

But nothing is that simple. Tom, being older, has searing memories of friends dying of ghastly AIDS complications during the 1980s. A scene in which a newly positive character is prescribed a cornucopia of pharmaceuticals, arrayed on a tabletop for dramatic effect, is unsettling.

Catch is also uncommonly frank in terms of nudity and explicit (gay) sexual situations. So, let’s cut to the inevitable questions: Is this action essential to the story, or is it a come-on?

The answer is “yes” and “yes.” Catch contains the kind of after-the-act conversations many of us have had in intimate situations at some point. (“Weren’t you wearing a condom? I thought I felt …” “Uh, it broke.” “Well, you’re clean?” “I … think so.”) Likewise, the conversation with a friend who’s just tested positive for HIV. There’s something refreshingly honest about finding these situations, which happen in real life, represented onstage.

Lambda also wants us to know, in advance, that it’s tweaking taboos. Catch is promoted as “controversial.” Ticket buyers (who must be 18 or older) are advised of “abundant nudity,” which is both a fair warning and something of an advertisement. But we’ll let Lambda have things both ways, for now.

Arlon Carlson is solid as Tom, speaking slowly and with deep conviction when he warns that HIV is plain bad news, no matter what modern medicine can do. David Shorey is steady as Bob, who initially underestimates what the virus means. Daryl Clark plays promiscuous Trey, barely 21. Troy Masters plays Butch, a character who’s HIV-positive and remains sexually active. Director Brian Judd steers them all through bedroom situations, difficult conversations and plainspoken monologues with aplomb.