The AIDS epidemic wasn’t thrust into the theatrical spotlight until the mid-eighties and nineties. Only then did playwrights like Larry Kramer (The Normal Heart, The Destiny of Me), William M. Hoffman (As Is), and Tony Kushner (Angels in America) tackle the incompetence and apathy among local and national leaders with regards to the deadly virus.
At the same time, their works focused on the humanity and understanding that was expressed within the LGBTQ community.
Steven Dietz’s 1993 Lonely Planet has never been considered one of the pivotal works in this genre, but it doesn’t mean that it lacks merit.
Jonathan Silverstein must agree. The artistic director of Keen Company has seen fit to revive the Off-Broadway play at Theatre Row, where it runs through Nov. 18th.
There is slight poignancy in this story of a quiet, self-contained map store owner, Jody (Arnie Burton) and his larger than life friend, Carl (Matt McGrath) —a man with mercurial careers and a passion for honoring the lives of his afflicted friends.
Yet for everything that is shared between the two, there is surprisingly little emotional resonance. One of the problems may be the lengthy monologues that Dietz writes, most of which are expository and come across rather sterile and matter of fact. As a result, there isn’t much left to feel.
Nonetheless, Burton and McGrath are marvelously paired. Each of their performances is well worth the price of a ticket.
Set director Anshuman Bhatia and prop designer Emile Grossman deserve high accolades for the incredible number of items they’ve acquired here.
Lonely Planet is a show that could well be described as “enjoyable enough.” Certainly one could waste 100 minutes on other empty entertainment, but it’s not the must see theatrical event for the fall season.