Yilong Liu’s Queer-Sci-Fi Whisks Us Back to the Future
by Barry David Horwitz
Lots of people are taking the anti-HIV pill to protect themselves from getting the virus. Taking the little blue PrEP pill helps fight off the virus that causes AIDS. Some people report side-effects—including bizarre dreams and nightmares. “PrEP Play, or “Blue Parachute” takes us on a vivid, “side effect” adventure.
The trip is witty, passionate, and full of surprises.
Playwright Yilong Liu offers us a gay, sci-fi love story that yokes a self-centered, adventurous Millennial lover with a loyal, cautious Gen X lover. We’re not sure if the younger party animal and the older Math teacher are going to make it.
Carlos Aceves’ playful set design boasts giant blue rectangles that the actors get to move and change. The pieces cleverly open into dance floors, bedrooms, and back alleys—blue fairylands in the 80s where the younger lover time back in time.
Matt Weimer, as Bryant, the older boyfriend, does a unique, intimate, and convincing job. As an engaging, sensitive lover, Bryant has written his memoir about the 80s and AIDS. Weimer’s cautious, careful, and caring teacher strikes a note that fits our current fears. Weimer’s honest portrayal of Bryant has the touch of real life.
We sympathize with Bryant as young Erik (captivating James Aaron Oh) sleeps around, protected by his PrEP pills. Oh charms us with his embodiment of a naïve, promiscuous explorer who has his own identity battles. Erik doesn’t really “get” his older boyfriend.
Erik’s on Prep and sex is his oyster! He even argues: “Sucking Dick IS a political act!” Erik is annoyed at Bryant’s fear of the pill’s side effects. The scenes between the younger and the older lovers are touching and funny, as they struggle to understand each other’s history.
Representing the blue Prep pill, Agent 701 (sly Akaina Ghosh) strolls the scene, singing. She takes Erik back to the 80s, where he inhabits Bryant’s youthful body. Ghosh offers a delightful, eccentric portrait of PrEP’s trippy side effects.
Erik, suffering from nightmares, is thrust into Bryant’s history. A blast to the past! Wandering around 1986 during the AIDs pandemic, he flirts with Jared (astute Troy Rockett), Bryant’s compassionate 80s boyfriend. Jared’s life story is gay history come alive.
The complicated flashbacks and flash forwards to the present fill Yilong Lui’s play with tricky revolving plots. But the playwright casts a love spell on us, too, as Erik’s love for Bryant develops and grows.
Their love scenes are the heart of the play because they show how love can grow and how sometimes it must be thwarted. We feel the tension through the actors’ yearning, guilt, and enduring affection.
Erik’s time travel shows us a new way to love. I recommend this trip back to the future to see where we have come from and where we can go. A fun-filled adventure: No pills required.
“PrEP Play, or Blue Parachute” by Yilong Liu, directed by Adin Walker, at New Conservatory Theatre Center, San Francisco. Info: nctcsf.org – to May 8, 2022.
Cast: Akaina Ghosh, James Aaron Oh, Troy Rockett, and Matt Weimer.
Banner photo: James Aaron Oh (Erik) & Matt Weimer (Bryant). Photos by Lois Tema