Picks and Pans Review: As Is

Showtime (Sun., July 27, 9 p.m. ET)


The comparison is unfair. Apology is a movie made for cable; this show is an award-winning Broadway show staged for cable. But I can’t help myself. The irony is irresistible: At the exact same moment that gay men are being killed and losing their you-know-whats on one cable channel, another channel is running a wonderfully artful, compassionate and compelling play about AIDS, As Is. The play’s greatest virtue is that it isn’t too virtuous; As Is doesn’t preach, yell or whine. Instead, playwright William Hoffman uses humor to break the depressing pall his subject brings: witness two bestudded guys in a leather bar debating whether they’d met on “jock-strap night” or at the “slave auction.” Hoffman gives you a dying hero, Robert Carradine, who’s often hard to like; he’s so angry about the disease that he threatens to keep picking up men because “I’m going to die, and I’ll take as many of them with me as I can.” Hoffman gives you a good guy—Jonathan Hadary reprising his Broadway role as the dying man’s ex-lover and nursemaid—who acts less out of altruism than out of loneliness. And Hoffman gives you innovative dramatic techniques that keep the play moving at 80 miles per hour—you hear Carradine’s family, friends, co-workers and doctors reacting to the news of his fatal disease in only a few tightly packed minutes. All of this is superbly adapted for the video screen by director Michael (Brideshead Revisited) Lindsay-Hogg.

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