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Curing Ron

By Eric Alter
Directed by Rodney E. Reyes
American Theatre of Actors
Non-union production (closed)
Review by Charles Battersby

Curing Ron is the latest yarn by the highly prolific playwright Eric Alter (who credits himself as the author of over 70 plays). ...Ron starts off by giving the impression that it'll be about the AIDS crisis and medical ethics, but this is only marginally true. The opening scene shows a pair of doctors (Jesse St. Louis and Marc Gettis) firing off facts about AIDS and HIV, then a later scene features the duo discovering a possible vaccine for HIV, and in a yet later scene they reveal to the audience that they intend to pay One MILLION Dollars to whoever will try the untested, potentially lethal vaccine. Given this set-up, it's easy to think that the play will deal with hot topical issues like commercialism in the drug industry, but rather, Curing Ron deals with the personal life of the schmo who volunteers to test the vaccine.

After the first scene, the focus of the play shifts to the titular Ron (Robert Sullivan), a broke, depressed loser who's unsuccessfully trying to gain the respect of his wealthy family and successful girlfriend (Christine Scherrer-Seisler). Even though Ron's problems are pretty insignificant when compared to a global plague, the AIDS theme is shoved into the background, as the story devotes itself to Ron's quest for financial independence and love from his estranged father (Philip Bartolf).

For reasons never fully explained, the two scientists have trouble finding qualified test subjects for their experimental vaccine (apparently not many folks want to become an AIDS-immune millionaire). Given that there's a pair of docs looking to heap wealth and fame upon some lucky guinea pig, and that Ron is looking for riches and respect, it's not too hard to guess that Ron will be the one who volunteers to test the vaccine. Still, playwright Eric Alter spends the entire first act leading up to this event; over an hour.

The second act proves to be equally predictable (when a born loser subjects himself to medical experiments involving a lethal virus, it's a forgone conclusion as to how it will turn out). Nevertheless, a melodramatic second hour passes before Ron's fate is finally confirmed.

Although Ron is not a particularly sympathetic protagonist (pathetic, but not sympathetic) Sullivan still did a good job of making a convincing loser as Ron. The rest of the cast dealt well with the often melodramatic material, though there were no exceptional performances.

In this performance, director Rodney E. Reyes stood in for Daniel Roach as Ron's buddy Rooke. Reyes proved to be a competent actor, as well as a competent director too. His direction was mostly straightforward, though he deserves credit for effectively staging the rapid location changes on the ATA's smallish playing area.

The uncredited design elements were adequate, though not spectacular.

A sorta happy ending provided closure for Ron and his dad, but the play essentially swept aside its more interesting themes of the search for an AIDS cure, in order to tell the story of some guy named Ron.

Also featuring Brendan Monahan, Caroline Marie Samaan, and Karen Elkind.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2004 Charles Battersby