A play of AIDS memorializes the stagnancy and ignorance in the 1980s

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Entering its third year of producing theatre, the Rogue Stage Ensemble has chosen Terrence McNally’s play, “Lips Together, Teeth Apart,” as its fourth production.

“I had four actors I wanted to cast in a play together and I spent most of the summer reading,” said Artistic Director Joel Meriwether. “These were all mature actors and I wanted to find a play that would showcase them together. And then I read “Lips Together Teeth Apart” and I knew that I had found the right vehicle.”

The play takes place on July 4, 1990, and is about two straight couples – sister and brother Chloe and Sam and their spouses John and Sally – who are vacationing together on Fire Island in the home that Sally’s deceased brother, David (who recently died of AIDS) willed to her. In spite of the ongoing parties by Sally’s gay neighbors on either side of her home, the foursome reveal how they are all drowning in their own pain. McNally’s play also looks at dissolving marriages and the capricious nature of death.  All of the July 4 festivities are overshadowed by David’s death and the gay men cavorting in thongs surrounding the foursome’s patio.

The cast includes Kathleen Jaffe as Sally, Doug Allen as Sam, Trin Blakely as Chloe, and Phil Brady as John.

In June, 1981, the first case of AIDS, a then-unknown infection first known as GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency), was documented in a group of young, gay men in Los Angeles, California and that diagnosis affected the sexual habits of all Americans for years to come.

Americans will always remember that the Ronald Reagan Presidency shamefully abdicated leadership in the fight against AIDS and his source of support came from the newly identified Moral Majority, a political action group founded by the Reverend Jerry Falwell. Reagan’s communications director Pat Buchanan argued that AIDS was “nature’s revenge on gay men.”  President Reagan finally addressed the issue of AIDS on May 31, 1987 at the Third International Conference on AIDS in Washington and by this time 36,058 Americans had been diagnosed and 20,849 had died.

Several plays had been written about the AIDS crisis by the time Dramatist’s Play Service published Terrence McNally’s “Lips Together, Teeth Apart” in August, 1991; a play McNally says is about stagnancy and ignorance in the fight against the AIDS epidemic.

Rogue Stage Ensemble will be presenting Terrence McNally’s “Lips Together, Teeth Apart” November 30 through December 16; Friday and Saturday performances are at 7:30pm and Sunday matinees are at 2:30pm. Performances will be held at The Barbershop Theater, 4003 Indiana Avenue, in Nashville. Ticket prices are $15.00 and can be purchased through Eventbrite, www.eventbrite.com, or purchased at the door on the evening of the performance for $18.00. See www.thebarbershoptheater.com for details.