Contracting the HIV virus may no longer be the automatic death sentence that it once was, but it still has life-altering consequences as ably demonstrated in Christopher Wilson's new musical, Living With Henry, at PTC Performance Space.
The show tracks several years in the life of Michael (well played by Ryan Kelly), a gay man who doesn't always make the best choices when it comes to men. He's aware of the risks he takes that can endanger his health, but a combination of fear, denial and the possibility of love lead him on a path strewn with difficulties -- but one that also forces him to take control of his life and responsibility for his actions.
The show's title character, played by Dale Miller, is the embodiment of the HIV virus -- a theatrical device that is only sporadically effective. Henry's songs and direct-address narration to the audience work well enough, but too often, Miller as Henry is left standing on the periphery, glowering at Michael and the people in his life.
These include two of Michael's lovers -- Matthew (John Edwards) and Peter (Gavin Hope) -- as well as his mother (Mary Kelly), his best friend Jenni (Lizzie Kurtz), and various others played by members of the ensemble.
Wilson gives a certain amount of complexity to Michael, Matthew, and Peter, but his female characters seem more thinly written. And while his music and lyrics are serviceable for the story he wants to tell, there's no song that you leave the theater humming.
More effective are the sexy and whimsical dances, choreographed by Donna Marie Baratta, who also directs. Standout numbers include "Bathhouse Tango," performed by the men in the cast, and "The Price of Nice," which depicts Michael's exposure to HIV in a manner both titillating and disturbing.
-- Dan Bacalzo