Cyberqueer, Bailiwick Repertory. Playwrights and theatergoers seem fascinated by proxy love, like the answering-service romance in Bells Are Ringing. And in the gay community the fear of AIDS has spawned various kinds of high-tech safe-sex love: Robert Chesley’s Jerker exposed the anonymous underworld of phone sex, and now Cyberqueer–LA playwright Tom Jacobson’s tribute to the powers of imagination and deception on the Internet–details a descent into the mail-strom.

This 75-minute romp chronicles the adventures of Nelson, a linguistics professor who logs onto a gay “chat room” and becomes addicted to “a bunch of people typing orgasms.” Jacobson’s script embodies the on-line mayhem, including strident SHOUTERS, sideways smiley faces, and deflating typos (“duck” for “dick”); echoing Dorothy, one cybernaut remarks, “People come and go so quickly here.” Nelson creates an Internet alter ego (“Thor”) who denies his real-life paunch and puss and tumbles for a mystery man, “Darkhorse.” Together they switch sexes and styles, trying to trap the other into consistency, if not commitment. Finally, sacrificing their computer camouflage, the men risk real life and love: Jacobson’s surprise ending questions the need for so much self-defeating sublimation.

Though the cyber-sex simulations wax silly, Keith Geller and David Zak’s staging zips along, buoyed by an attractive cast. Cunning performances include Scott Cooper’s needy Nelson, Darren Stephens as his hunky alias, and Angelo Petronio as the dashing Darkhorse.