Play examines AIDS politics

The gay community is being “very forgotten” in the global fight against HIV-AIDS, says playwright Sky Gilbert in explaining the impetus behind his provocative new show, I Have AIDS!

TORONTO — The gay community is being “very forgotten” in the global fight against HIV-AIDS, says playwright Sky Gilbert in explaining the impetus behind his provocative new show, I Have AIDS!

“My concern is basically that the gay community, all that they’ve done and all of the knowledge and expertise they’ve had in dealing with this, is not being acknowledged and used by the straight community,” the two-time Dora Award winner said in a recent interview at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, where the play is running through May 3.

“I think it’s a lot easier to deal with quote-unquote ‘innocent African children’ than with effeminate, partying gay men and that’s really one of the things the play’s about is like, the kind of dividing line between when we make innocent victims and non-innocent victims.”

I Have AIDS! is an unflinching dark comedy starring Gavin Crawford (This Hour Has 22 Minutes) as a gay standup comic who nonchalantly tells his partner (David Yee) he has HIV over dinner in their Toronto condo. Ryan Kelly co-stars in various roles as Crawford’s character goes through extreme emotional swings in reaction to his illness.

As with many of Gilbert’s plays, the content is graphic and not for the faint of heart — the promotional materials even state that the show is “guaranteed to be controversial.”

But the story is a long overdue examination of modern AIDS politics, said Gilbert, who does not have the disease but has seen it affect his personal life.

“It’s time,” said Gilbert, who co-founded the theatre that’s dedicated to queer-themed work.

Also changing is the justice system’s approach to HIV-AIDS.

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