TO SCHTUP OR NOT TO SCHTUP, THAT is the question. And Jeffrey--a sexually compulsive thirtysomething cater-waiter who has had over 5,000 sexual partners--has found the answer. Living in Manhattan during the peak of AIDS hysteria, he opts for celibacy--jumping into his newfound abstinence with all the enthusiasm he had previously devoted to his life as a sex addict. Irony of ironies, soon after he embarks on his new life of blue-balls and cold showers, he meets the man of his dreams--who turns out to be HIV-positive. What's a boy to do?

Gemini Productions' version of Paul Rudnick's award-winning Jeffrey makes for thin theatergoing indeed. Aside from a criminal lack of staging (there was literally no set) and amateurish directorial choices, the most disgruntling flaw in this production lies in its obvious miscasting. Almost anyone in the cast would have made a more appropriate Jeffrey than Jeffrey (played by Vince Kovar). Described throughout the play as a bubbly and optimistic "high-school girl trapped in a gay man's body," Kovar's Jeffrey never manages to be more than a blandly pleasant young man who has learned his lines moderately well. With the lead's decided lack of energy and comic timing, much of the script's rapid-fire repartee is lost, and Jeffrey's wrenching struggle between passion and fear is tepid at best. The high-voltage sexual tension necessary between Jeffrey and Steve (the "hunky" doomed paramour, played by Jason Griffin--another strange casting choice) was entirely missing--and so, therefore, was much of the play's power and purpose.

Only some scene-stealing bit players keep Jeffrey from falling to pieces--especially the versatile Tina Magyar and Justin Fatz, hysterical as the overbearing Jewish mother and her pre-operative transsexual lesbian daughter. Mark Finley was born to play the role of Sterling, the erudite and sardonic sophisticate; Finley expertly delivers his character's wise and hysterical one-liners, and even milks some tears during the powerful hospital scene. Danny Hill is adorable as Sterling's lover Darius, a bouncy and courageous HIV-positive chorus boy.

But these actors waste their talents combating the play's excruciatingly slow pacing and the deep and boring hole the lead characters are digging. This leaves the play wildly unbalanced. This play's been produced in Seattle several times already, and with a film version available at the corner video shop, one can only conclude that Jeffrey has not only been done before, but done far better.

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