'Patient A' dramatizes public attitudes about AIDS victims

By Mia Proli Gable

Arizona Daily Wildcat

As AIDS becomes more prominent, it has become common knowledge that the disease is contracted through blood transfusions, sharing needles, or through your dentist.

Through your dentist? It happened to Kimberly Bergalis and her story is told in Invisible Theatre's latest production Patient A.

This is one of the most unusual plays around today and it seems an appropriate way to deal with a true-life account of someone dying of AIDS. There are only three characters in this play: Kimberly (Yvonne Huff), Matthew (Patrick Brian Mulchay) and Lee (James Blair). The twist is that the playwright, Lee Blessing, is a character in his own play and Kimberly acknowledges that she is dead already.

There is much to swallow in this play it's supposed to be true, but all of the characters know that they are characters. However, this intriguingly different way to present a story is just as interesting as the story itself.

Kimberly Bergalis was an "innocent" victim of AIDS. She was young, a virgin and had not received any blood transfusions; low-risk in terms of contracting the virus. The only two instances that she could have contracted the disease were when she became a blood sister with her best friend when they were in their early teens, and when she got her wisdom teeth pulled by her dentist. Her blood sister didn't test positive for the virus; the dentist, and a few of his patients, did.

Kimberly's case is unusual because there have not been many proven cases of people contracting the AIDS virus from health-care officials. Her case also received a lot of publicity, which bothered the homosexual community, because a distinction was created between "good" and "bad" AIDS. This is where the character of Matthew comes into the play as a type of representative for the gay community.

Patient A is well performed overall. Huff and Blair effectively portray the contrast between writer and subject. Blair's Lee is somewhat of a philosopher who quotes Andrew Marvel's poetry to show the relationship between the death of a fawn, the death of innocence and Kimberly's struggle with AIDS. Mulchay's Matthew does a decent job of switching into mothers, doctors, gay men, etc., when needed but has a tendency to use facial expressions to show emotions rather than really feel them.

Patient A is not afraid to present the facts in a way that is somewhere between a seminar and a fairy tale.

Patient A will play through April 15 at the Invisible Theatre. Call 882-9721 for reservations and more information.

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