Temptation, lust, despair, hurt, regret, fear, love, passion — all are central themes and emotions played out in “Beirut, a love story,“ now at the Whitefire Theatre. In roles originated by Marisa Tomei and Terry Rabine in the 1987 Off-Broadway production, Mandy Brown and Dylan Osean take center stage as Blue and Torch in this emotionally charged character piece, where the audience viscerally senses the tension building between the two lovers and their sexual energy.
In a world riddled by plagues both modern day and from bygone times (bubonic, AIDS, E. coli virus, swine flu), the play deals with the hysteria and quarantine of a nameless, unknown disease and the repercussions for those infected and their loved ones. Similar to Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America,” “Beirut“ brings attention, awareness, and sensitivity to the AIDS epidemic, sadly still a timely and serious issue today.
The two lead actors, both native Texans, convincingly play the gentle, starry-eyed “Romeo and Juliet of the Lower East Side,” determined to let their love conquer all, amidst their precarious life- and-death situation. A profound line, uttered by Blue, is “I can live without sex and feel dead, or risk death and feel alive.” Torch, reflecting on his condition, aptly states, “This neighborhood’s called Beirut for a reason…”
Director Scott Travers shares his own notes on his work. “Love… probably the most abstract of concepts, is difficult to express and can be fraught with difficulty. In much the same way that grief is experienced, unexpected, and mysterious, love manifests itself as bliss, despair, fascination, lust or revulsion. It may be that Torch and Blue have nothing to teach about love, except that nothing can be taught in the first place. Perhaps we should heed that lesson.”
“Beirut, a love story” plays Tuesdays, 8 p.m. at the Whitefire Theatre (13500 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks) now through March 23, 2010. For more information, visit www.comeseetheplay.com.