Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Just Say No Lives!

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Just Say No Lives!

Article excerpt

LARRY KRAMER'S ANGRY FARCE ON AIDS AND THE REAGANS GETS A NEW PRODUCTION IN CHICAGO

Greg Louganis and Alexandra Billings are all over each other. And they've just met. Emanating the star wattage of Tom and Nicole, the acting duo are jesting their way through a Los Angeles photo shoot to promote their starring roles in the Bailiwick Theatre staging of Larry Kramer's Just Say No, a play that takes on the AIDS-blindness of President Reagan's America. It's also a full-on bedroom farce, complete with slamming doors, musical beds, and a cast of oddly familiar characters. As Junior and Mrs. Potentate, ruling family of a country called New Columbia, Louganis jetes across the stage in nothing but a towel in search of gay sex and a ballet career while Billings plays a Lady Macbeth in heat, hell-bent on destroying a sex-orgy video threatening Mr. Potentate's hope or reelection.

"And everything in the play is tru!" exclaims Kramer, on the telephone from his East Coast home. "I'm printing a list of all my sources in the program. People can verify the researchers."

Billings, a glamorous and bawdy brunet throwback to an earlier era of theatricial divas, elaborates. "Unlike other farces where you just enjoy the high jinks and near misses, you can't turn your brain off. As you're laughing you can't help seeing AIDS in a different light. At the reading last year, I never heard an audience laugh like that before, but during the last monologue there was dead silence. People got much more than they bargained for."

That may hold true especially for the play's stars. While both have met success onstage--Louganis in New York City productions of Jeffrey and the Only Thing Worse You Could Have Told Me ... and Billings in critically acclaimed Chicago productions, tackling everything from Brecht to roles such as Gertrude Stein and Cruella De Vil--the actors are making their debuts in a political hot potato(e). Washington wags certainly remember the Reagan crowd's ruthless damage control after the 1986 publication of Vicki: The True Story of Vicki Morgan and Alfred Bloomingdale and the Affair That Shook the Highest Levels of Government and Society (St. Martin's Press), which alleged the existence of a videotaped orgy involving Reagan administration officials--much like the video over which Kramer's crowd of nymphos, leather fetishists, and closet cases bed and betray one another.

Just Say No was slammed by critics after a 1988 New York production, and Kramer had no intention of revisiting the play until he went to Chicago last July to attend the Bailiwick's one-night-only benefit reading, starring Billings. …

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