Credit: Paul Goyette

Tommy Murphy’s 2006 adaptation of Australian actor and writer Timothy
Conigrave’s 1995 coming-of-age memoir is a difficult pill to swallow, for
reasons that shift halfway through this two-and-a-half-hour show. For most
of the first act, the difficulty arises largely from the surface-skipping
breeziness that turns Conigrave’s first two decades of life-discovering
he’s gay in his prepubescent years, falling head over heels for the class
jock in high school, stumbling upon gay rights activism in college—into a
scattershot, oddly impersonal, and at time credulity-straining highlights
reel (did none of Conigrave’s mid-1970s high school classmates, including
his putative girlfriend, display even the tiniest unease with his open
homosexuality?). Director Michael D. Graham’s perfunctory staging for Pride
Films and Plays, which struggles to create a meaningful stage picture or an
effective rhythm, is no help.

But after HIV rears its horrid head before intermission and both Conigrave
and his partner, John Caleo, test positive, the second act finds its focus,
as we watch the couple negotiate terror, guilt, rage, infidelity, and most
cruelly, a hard-won devotion that death swiftly destroys. If, like I, you
lived through similar horrors a few decades back, the final 30 minutes may
leave you retraumatized, especially given the compelling performances of
Micah Kronlokken as Conigrave and Jude Hansen as Caleo. At the same time,
you may wonder if it’s enough for a playwright to ask the audience to feel
another grievous AIDS loss without questioning any of the social and
political forces that led to countless similar unnecessary deaths.   v