As Is, director Walter J. Hoffman’s powerful revival of William M. Hoffman’s revolutionary play, captures a gay couple breaking up in the context of a larger social blow: AIDS.
This 1985 drama was among the first to record the shattering impact of the disease on New York City. After leaving Saul (a cute, kvetchy Todd Michael) for another man, Rich (an anguished, bookish Jeff Auer) contracts HIV and finds himself rejected by his family and new boyfriend.
An Apple Core Theater Company production, As Is explores not only the solitude, but also the solidarity that AIDS victims experienced in the thick of the pandemic. Saul takes Rich back in, pals offer support, and the play itself follows collective principles: Disparate scenes unfurl concurrently on separate sections of the stage, each providing commentary on the others. In a moving moment of shared isolation, all the characters, seemingly talking to themselves, simultaneously describe how they first heard about AIDS. And in the play’s most horrific gesture toward commonality, every one of Rich and Saul’s friends—including a straight, pregnant woman—develops the illness.
This play about endings concludes startlingly fast, and leaves us wishing that the wrenching script—like the lives it describes—had been longer.