He Asked for It

Gay playwright Erik Patterson tackles HIV in a funny way -- no hospital beds here.

BY Amita Parashar

June 28 2009 11:00 PM ET

HE ASKED FOR IT Joe Egender as Ted X390 (ERIK PATTERSON) | ADVOCATE.COM

Rigby, who has a proclivity for barebacking and a fend-for-yourself attitude, agrees to give Ted what he "asked for" by sleeping with him. After his night with Rigby, Ted gets tested and finds out he is HIV-positive. Ted calls Henry with the news, only to hear that Henry has researched ways to keep him safe and wants to be with him regardless of his status. Henry is, of course, is baffled at Ted's act of desperation and self-harm and ends the relationship.

Director Neil Weiss, who also oversaw the play in its first run, says Ted's character strikes a chord with a younger audience. "People come to [Los Angeles] and are so desperate to find an identity, they'll turn themselves into anything they need to be to get what they think they want," he says.

Though Ted's choice to risk infection goes beyond rational judgment (one hopes), it raises tough questions surrounding the "how" and "when" of HIV status disclosure. The play speaks to a generation that, because it didn't live through the fear when HIV was first discovered, often feels either invincible in the face of the virus or removed from the reality of the disease.

Patterson, who developed the play over nearly four years, intended it to be a subtle nod to past plays about AIDS, such as Tony Kushner's Angels in America. Although he thinks these plays are very well written, "I'm not going to write that play," he says. "I didn't want to set any of the scenes in a hospital room, because that's not the world we live in right now. It's not 1980."

The audience maintains a connection to Ted's past through phone conversations with his younger sister, Sophie (Sarah Foret), his only tie to his family in Wyoming, from whom he is estranged. In the face of pressure from that family, his failed relationship with Henry, and his fledgling acting career (his homophobic, but ironically gay, agent is played by journalist Brian Unger, The Daily Show ), Ted's life completely unravels.

"The audience just falls in love with [Ted], and he breaks your heart," Weiss says.

Tags: Theater

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