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“Lonely Planet” spotlights friendship

Evan Causey and PJ Gentry star in “Lonely Planet,” opening Friday. ORACLE PHOTOS / KATELYN MONTAGNA

It is a story about two friends in a map store on what doesn’t have to be a lonely planet.

The play “Lonely Planet” opens Friday in Theater Arts Rehearsal building Room 120, and is directed by Carlos Garcia, a senior majoring in theater performance.

The two-character play written by Steven Dietz in 1993 focuses on the AIDS epidemic and how it affects two friends, Jody, played by Evan Causey, and Carl, played by PJ Gentry.

Jody, the owner of a map store, has begun to cut himself off from the world because of the ongoing epidemic.

“He’s afraid that if he gets tested, what that could mean for his future,” Garcia said. “Obviously, if he gets a positive result that’s the slow succumbing to death, but there’s also the stigma of coming out in a way – going to the clinic – a plethora
of things.”

In response to Jody’s intentional seclusion, Carl begins to leave mismatched chairs in Jody’s store.

“Each chair is representative of a friend that’s passed away,” Garcia said. “Every time a friend passes away, he takes a chair from their abode and brings them in to remind Jody, as he’s secluding himself away from life, people arepassing on.”

Although the play is set during the AIDS epidemic, Garcia said that “Lonely Planet” puts a spotlight on friendship more than anything else.

“It’s a play about friendship, and AIDS is kind of the catalyst for some of these events; but the relationship between Carl and Jody as friends is the front and center point,” Garcia said. “It’s more an examination of friendship and how people live on a day-to-day basis.”

“Look at it from it the perspective of friendship, don’t look at it as your typical homosexual/AIDS drama. I think in media nowadays, there’s this trope that’s sort of the gay victim card, and that’s not what’s being played here at all.”

The play is a production of the Student Theatre Production Board and was created by a cast and crew of eight students.

“All the people in the cast and crew have this great relationship with one another and we bounce ideas off each other and that’s really rare,” Garcia said. “Sometimes you have this hierarchy of director and actor, and the director is always giving rules to the actors. But this is a much more open-ended process, kind of like the sort of 1960s style of experimental theater and the living theater and open theater. It’s honestly been a bit heartwarming.”

The play is free and open to the public and will run Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m.

“People very seldom go to a movie or a restaurant with just themselves; they take a friend with them,” Garcia said. “I really want people to walk into the audience with their friend … and after the play ends just to look back at them and to really appreciate that they’re still there.”