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"Jeffrey' takes light look at serious topic

Jeffrey, a Loft production at Off-Center Theater, examines the gay life and its sexual fears in a lighthearted effort.

Sprinkled with Gershwin music, the two-hour show is reminiscent of a fast-paced musical comedy, except that it's about AIDS. Rick Castillo directed.

Paul Rudnick's play follows Jeffrey (Kevin Jones), a gay man who is pursuing a career as an actor as he earns a living as a waiter in New York. After many sexual encounters _ he says 5,000 _ Jeffrey has decided to swear off sex because of his paranoia of AIDS.

Enter the man of his dreams, Steve (Christopher Lee), a bartender who pursues Jeffrey and just happens to have the human immunodeficiency virus. Jeffrey seeks solace through physical exercise, a career push, religious exploration and even by joining a sexual compulsive support group.

Jeffrey's close friends include Sterling (Kyle Whyte) and Sterling's lover, Darius (Joseph Lagana). Both encourage Jeffrey to find someone with whom he can establish a lasting relationship. "Hate AIDS, not life," Sterling says after the death of Darius from an AIDS-related illness. "Even when sick Darius was happier than you are."

Will Jeffrey choose love while he has a chance?

Whyte portrays interior designer Sterling with savoir-faire. Jones, who in real life is HIV-positive, makes a charming Jeffrey. Steve, his handsome pursuer, is played adequately but without verve by Lee in his acting debut. Mardie Schaefer and Markis Vincent play several parts hilariously.

Rudnick, author of the play I Hate Hamlet and the screenplay of Addams Family Values, is an irreverent sort. Jeffrey's ridicule of evangelists and the Catholic church makes the play not for the ultraconservative crowd.



The Loft production of Paul Rudnick's comedy runs through Nov. 6 at Off-Center Theater of Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Shows are at 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 8:15 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Call (800) 955-1045 or Off-Center Hotline at 222-1001.