Now that theater companies are producing again in a fairly normal manner after time off during the COVID-19 pandemic, the local spring season is a robust one. Many quality plays and LGBTQ-themed and -friendly works are on tap in Atlanta theaters.
A decade after playwright Donja R. Love found out about his HIV diagnosis, he decided to write about it. His “one in two” opens at Out Front Theatre Company soon, directed by J.L. Reed.
According to Reed, “one in two” is Love’s exploration of coming to terms with the diagnosis, figuring out life within and beyond living with HIV/AIDS. The play opens with three Black men — referred to as Person on the Right, Person on the Left and Person in the Middle — on stage in a waiting room of sorts, where one will get a positive diagnosis.
“Donja leaves it up to the creators to determine exactly what this all-white room is,” Reed said. “He just describes it as pristine and sterile.”
Reed, who is gay, loves the experimental nature of the show, where the audience gets to choose who plays two of the three characters.
“It’s meta-theatrical, and there are some fun and engaging devices that are equal parts hilarious, painful, touching and poignant,” he said. “It’s a bit of a roller coaster. It’s a wonderfully challenging piece to bring to life. My aesthetic as an artist and director, in general, is that I like theater that plays with the rules and structure and isn’t a traditional, linear piece. It’s nice to break away from that sometime.”
Although HIV/AIDS is no longer regarded as a death sentence, it still brings with it all kinds of issues. Hence, “one in two” is still a relevant piece.
“One of the things we talk about is [that] we have medication now and have advanced so much in this realm to where people are living with HIV as opposed to dying of AIDS,” Reed said. “What we know, though, is that the stigma is still very real and painful and devastating and that a lot of this play is from a place of dealing with the stigma. We can have all the advances in the world, but what does this do to a person’s soul, spirit and emotional and mental well-being, if they are being shunned or ridiculed?”
The title of the play references the number of gay Black or bisexual men projected to contract HIV in their lifetime, Reed said.
This is the director’s second stint at the company, after last year’s “When Last We Flew.”
Aurora Theatre also has a production likely to appeal to an LGBTQ crowd. “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical” looks at the titular character, a five-time Grammy winner and certified icon. The production, charting the rise of her career and the struggles she faced, is directed by Patdro Harris, and one of its writers is Emmy winner Colman Domingo.
Actor’s Express has a number of productions this spring, including Kira Rockwell’s “Oh, to be Pure Again,” set at a fundamentalist church camp in Texas where campers are making some self-discoveries, and Joshua Harmon’s family saga, “Prayer for the French Republic.”
Producing musicals as well as anyone in the city now is City Springs Theatre. The company is about to open the exuberant, yet funny, “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” following the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.
Two of Onstage Atlanta’s productions this spring are August Wilson’s “Fences,” about a former star of the Negro baseball leagues who is now a garbage man in 1950s Pittsburgh, and the workplace thriller “Rasheeda Speaking.”
Touring shows to look out for include “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” and “A Soldier’s Play,” two Tony Award winners both brought to town by Broadway in Atlanta. “A Soldier’s Play” was directed on Broadway recently by Atlantan Kenny Leon.
Other noteworthy productions to keep an eye on include The Alliance Theatre’s “Roob and Noon,” Theatrical Outfit’s “Tiny Beautiful Things” (written by Nia Vardalos), Georgia Ensemble Theatre’s “Bright Star,” by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Horizon Theatre’s “Support Group for Men,” ART Station’s “The Savannah Sipping Society.” True Colors Theatre Company is also scheduled to stage “The Wiz,” although its run date is TBD.
“Oh, to Be Pure Again” runs March 2–26 at Actor’s Express
“Monty Python’s Spamalot” runs March 10–26 at City Springs Theatre
“one in two” runs March 16–April 1 at Out Front Theatre
“Summer: The Donna Summer Musical” runs March 16–April 9 at Aurora Theatre
“Fences” runs March 17–April 2 at Onstage Atlanta
“A Soldier’s Play” runs March 28–April 2 at the Fox Theatre, courtesy of Broadway in Atlanta
“Rasheeda Speaking” runs April 7–22 at Onstage Atlanta
“Moulin Rouge! The Musical” runs April 19–30 at the Fox Theatre, courtesy of Broadway in Atlanta
“Prayer for the French Republic” runs April 20–May 14 at Actor’s Express