Many a profound work of theatre has been written and presented on the AIDS epidemic, which include Angels in America; And the Band Played On; A Normal Heart, and Rent to name a few. Now comes “Nancy F***ing Reagan, with a smart sophisticated story and dialogue by playwright Daniel Hurewitz. The play is a diatribe against Nancy Reagan and an administration that went silent during the crux of the AIDS crisis. America today is still coping with the HIV/Aids crisis of the 80’s. That period of time was filled with hysteria and those infected were facing an inevitable death sentence. It’s so refreshing to witness the wellspring of performance art, the one good thing that came out of this time period, a chance for writers and actors to make meaning of this horrible plague that took loved ones’ precious lives too soon and senselessly. It’s also a chance for catharsis and mourning of the huge destruction this illness brought, and also an opportunity to fight for justice and speak out against political leaders, such as the Reagans, who turned a blind eye.
The play centers on David (Kiff Scholl), on the eve of his 50th birthday. Beautiful language and poetic images are given right from the start, vividly portraying “the sun setting as he approaches 50,” the sunset years of his life. Another creative character enters the stage, Richard (Mark Sande). At show’s start, he announces “writers are lonely misanthropes. It’s tragic that I’m losing my vocabulary just as I’m launching my career.” He’s looking for his friends to bring some added excitement and zest to his ordinary hum drum life. David is hoping that friends Jason (Greg Ivan Smith) and his young lover Kenny (Colbert Alembert) will bring new meaning to the concept ‘50 is the new 30,’ upon their arrival in Palm Springs. Amidst all this birthday drama queen ado, is a subplot involving Maggie (Debi Tinsley) current dean of Cardiff college, and activist/student Allison (Safiya Quinley) who pays an unannounced visit to Maggie’s home during the start of festivities. This play takes us back to a moment in history with a nation in mourning, yet it also highlights the first couples’ calculated coldness, and darker legacy, as thousands infected were dying each day. David strongly believes “Nancy F***ing Reagan took our youth,” and he’s in payback/revenge mode, scheming up a plan of karma, “what goes around, comes around.” David thinks up a plan that one may term ‘radical action to get revenge.’ Although the proverbial “2 wrongs don’t make a right” is widely followed, in David’s case he sought justice over the injustice from the Reagan administration and what better way to rectify the tragic stance on Aids than to splatter blood on her coffin, a most symbolic payback.
The moment the fiasco is about to occur and David and Kenny spout words of hurt and anger to Nancy’s coffin, news reporter Erica (Amy Kersten) is right on cue with a play to play synopsis and coverage. Meanwhile, back at the Palm Springs home where the celebration should be starting, minus the birthday guest of honor, a heated debate between Maggie and Allison erupts over college policy and inherent racism on campus following a literary discourse they had on Philip Roth’s The Human Stain. For the most part, I was interested and engaged, as these two strong, proactive women battled out a serious ethical debate about racism. Hurewitz is spot on in writing good characters, dialogue and conflict; each member of the ensemble making a vivid, memorable first impression. Well directed by Larry Margo, it’s a piece that accurately and relevantly portrays an important part of American history, but still keeps you guessing what will happen next.
Through Aug 4
The Secret Rose Theatre
11246 W. Magnilia Noho
Fridays & Saturdays 8pm
Promo code NFRNFR