‘Jeffrey’ at Rainbow Theatre Project

Jeffrey, the current offering of the Rainbow Theatre Project by playwright Paul Rudnick, casts a humorously defiant eye towards the tragedy of the AIDS epidemic – as set in the New York City of the late 1980s and the 1990s. This play is a decided antidote to the moral darkness of such trenchant, emotionally-searing fare as The Normal Heart and Angels in America. With such heart-wrenching subject material to contend with, Playwright Rudnick dares to take the protagonist Jeffrey (a superb performance by Rinaldo Martinez) on a “Candide-like” journey through a parade of gay and straight characters – only to upend our anticipated responses with witty, acerbic repartee that envelops the minutiae of daily life.

Rinaldo Martinez and Reginald Richard in 'Jeffrey.' Photo by RCG Photography.
Rinaldo Martinez and Reginald Richard in ‘Jeffrey.’ Photo by RCG Photography.

In conjunction with Rudnick, Director Robert Mintz, strikes just the right delicate balance between the comic flourishes and the emotional horrors of HIV and AIDS that was so prevalent during this period. Having seen this play twice in the past, including in New York City, I have never seen a production of this play that balances the comic and the dramatic so adroitly.

Director Mintz, holds the ensemble of fine actors in the palm of his hand and he obviously has encouraged them to perform with crisp panache and understanding of each and every situation that we encounter in the play.    

Members of the ensemble portray several differing, rotating roles with ease; sparkling brio and zest infuse very scene. Members of the ensemble who provide the very human backdrop of this play are Craig Houk, Emily Levey, Joshua Street, and Rick Westerkamp. All are superior with Mr. Westerkamp and Ms. Levey not missing a beat or nuance.

Randyn Fullard is fine as Darius and he is hysterically funny in several scenes. Matthew Pauli as Sterling is authoritative and bristling with dry, caustic humor throughout. Reginald Richard as Steven gives a multi-layered and complex interpretation of his character. Mr. Richard shone in his scene where he confesses his need for Jeffrey.

As said earlier, Rinaldo Martinez as Jeffrey is superb. Mr. Martinez is very rarely ever off the stage and he commands our attention with a natural charm and ease. Martinez plumbs the depths of his acting powers to show a man who is afraid of commitment but soon realizes that he must re-enter the world of life, self-acceptance, and joy. Martinez ably carries the central message of the play which is to embrace life in all its sorrows and vicissitudes.

The intimacy of the DC Arts Center aided immeasurably to the scope of this play and the playing space was very effectively utilized with minimal but very eye-catching set design by P J Carbonell. Lighting Design by James Morrison was extremely effective.  Costume Design by Hannah Katherine Herold was imaginative and eye-catching. Production and Stage Manager Deborah Gur did a superior job of production and stage management.

Again, I must commend Director Robert Mintz for his crisp and comic yet emotionally resonant handling of this delicate material. Bravos to all involved with this extremely professional production.  

Special commendations to Artistic Producing Director H. Lee Gable and Managing Director Michael Kelley for their continuing efforts to bring progressive, LGBTQ-themed theatre to the DC Metro artistic community.

[Read John Stoltenberg’s Magic Time! column about Jeffrey.]

Running Time: Two Hours including one-15-minute intermission.

Jeffrey plays through February 10, 2019, at the DC Arts Center – 2438 18th Street NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets go online

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David Friscic
David has always had a passionate interest in the arts from acting in professional dinner theatre and community theatre to reviewing film and local theatre in college to making numerous treks to New York City to indulge his interest in live theatre. An enthusiastic interest in writing has shown itself in a BA in English/Education and an MA in English Literature. Taken together, these two interests have culminated in the logical conclusion of writing for an arts blog. David moved up and down the East Coast due to his father's job at General Electric and this has helped him to perceive the world in a very open way. After his schooling, David taught in Catholic school systems for awhile and, then, spent three years in the seminary with two years at Catholic University studying Theology and one year in a practicuum working at a church in New York State. David currently works at the National Science Foundation as a Technical Information Specialist for the Office of Polar Programs and has had the great opportunity to go to Antarctica twice and Greenland once in support of the research community. He enjoys living in Bethesda and has taken courses at the Writer's Center. David enjoys swimming, traveling, reading, and working on committees at his condo. His major interest, however, is the arts and all it encompasses---from symphony, to film, to museum treks to live theatre. He counts having lunch with Lillian Gish and meeting Lily Tomlin, Geraldine Page, Maureen Stapleton, Liza Minnelli and Sandy Dennis as some of the more exciting encounters of his life.