RED, according to senior Randy Geary’s director’s notes, is a devised theatre piece that “examines how an individual who has, or has been greatly affected by HIV or AIDS functions and feels living in teen and young adult culture, with the knowledge of an impending death in the future.” Company members and playwrights include freshman Oliver Horton, juniors Sara Belger, Ryn Fynn, Aaron Weinger-Ward, Gloria Feliciano and senior Lisa Choi and with Geary as director. Geary also played the part of Death.
As the audience entered the Studio Theatre last weekend, Geary wearing a suit and barefoot, read clearly and solemnly from a list of people. The stage was set with chairs in the middle, one with a bright red book which contrasted with the black surrounding it. When it was show time, Geary’s reading of the names escalated faster and louder until the lights faded to black. Voices resounded through the darkness, coming from different directions and places.
With minimal percussion music, the lights came on, revealing the actors performing a tableau of their daily routines. One actor took off his shoes and put on tap dancing shoes. Another looked like she was washing her face. As they were doing these things, Geary, wearing a mask with distinct red patterns, drew a red line around the stage. The other cast members went away as one sat down on one of the chairs and picked up the red book, beginning the first scene. Characters were not given names and sometimes wore masks because of the stigma associated with names and faces, such as there is a stigma with having AIDS or HIV. Masks were well utilized to depict different characters and to represent the facelessness of having AIDS or HIV, as many people with AIDS or HIV are thought of only as a statistic.
The interrelationships and connections between strangers were highlighted when a particular scene had six characters on the stage at once, with three scenes occurring simultaneously. There were two characters in particular who were related in terms of difficulties with their families. One, who was disowned by her family after learning she had AIDS, wanted to reconnect with her mother, who she said was her whole life. Another, whose brother contracted AIDS, was jealous of the attention he was getting from their parents and at the same time feared for her brother’s life.
The theme of imminent death was prominent in the piece and featured characters who wanted to make amends or make their lives meaningful before they died. One character, a homeless man, wanted to thank a woman who gave him soup, but Death took him before he got that chance.
While most of the acting was convincing, some of the dialogue felt forced and the body language of some cast members was stiff.
Geary’s portrayal of his character was unique, playing Death as hesitant to take lives and sympathetic to the plight of the cast members. As the husband of Choi’s character was dying, Death seemed pensive.
Overall, RED was a great depiction of the tragedies and relationships of people who have AIDS or HIV. It covered a wide range of emotions and topics dealing with rape, accepting death, transmitting HIV/AIDS to loved ones, homelessness, and diagnosing the virus.