Seattle-based playwright Karen Hartman's Roz and Ray features only two actors, but this quiet little medical drama in the Leo K. Theatre (running through November 13) is probably the most intersectional show in Seattle theater right now.
Ray Mendes (played with infectious warmth and passion by Teagle F. Bougere) is a funny, black, boisterous, sorta-closeted queer, single father who hates disco and is trying to raise two boys with hemophilia, a rare genetic disorder that makes you bleed too much. "The 1980s can suck my hairy hole!" he says, establishing the era and his sense of humor.
Ray meets and eventually seduces Dr. Roz Kagan (played with wry restraint by Ellen McLaughlin), an older, straight white woman—one of the first in the field of hematology and oncology—who's pushing a miracle cure for hemophilia called Factor VIII, which clots blood.
Things go pretty well until the AIDS crisis begins to affect the medical blood supply. Donated blood used to make Factor VIII becomes contaminated with HIV, at which point Roz and Ray have to decide how they're going to treat these children. Their two choices: inject them with a medicine potentially infected with HIV or run them through a deadly, debilitating, and time-consuming medical procedure that will ultimately ruin and shorten their lives.
The story of Roz and Ray dramatizes something we don't often see dramatized: victims of racism, sexism, and homophobia falling in love and clashing, all while being taken advantage of by big, evil pharmaceutical corporations. That's race, gender, sexuality, and class all very much in the foreground of what is essentially a delicately done (if 15 minutes too long) love story.
This is the kind of play that sends you down a Wikipedia rabbit hole for hours after you see it. Did pharmaceutical companies really commit genocide against hemophiliacs in the 1980s? And what are those big pharmaceutical companies doing now? And why aren't they paying for everyone to go to college? And was the Reagan administration the absolute worst administration the country has ever known?