The Big ''A''
nytheatre.com review by Alexandra Cremer
August 13, 2011
Run, don’t walk to see The Big "A", written and performed by Dan Horrigan. The Big "A" is an amazing show about a man coming to terms with his HIV+ diagnosis. Unlike The Normal Heart and Angels in America, it is a story of living with HIV, not dying of AIDS. He shares his story with passion, razor sharp comedic timing and gentleness. He refrains from being preachy or didactic.
The show starts with Horrigan discussing the trials and tribulations of dating in the 21st century. He reminisces about the old days when you could meet someone by simply going out dancing and now everything is online. He discusses putting his HIV status on his profile page, and receiving a rude email from a 52-year-old gay man who basically says “I survived the '80s and '90s and you should have known better.”
Horrigan discusses how hurt he feels receiving this email and then tells his story. He discusses his first serious relationship, his first Devil Wears Prada-like job as a personal assistant, dealing with his diagnosis, and coming out to his mother.
The show is a story of self acceptance. He mentions the longing most young people have when they move to New York; the desire for the perfect job, the perfect relationship and the perfect set of kitchenware. He discusses the failure of his first relationship not being caused by a lack of love, but by a lack of self esteem.
The thing I like about the show is that he doesn’t blame his diagnosis on society, his family or the world. He simply states that when his first serious relationship ended, he went out and had a lot of sex in order to ease the pain of the breakup.
One of the show's many high points is when Horrigan discusses his relationship with his mother. He tells the story of when he came out to his mother and she did not reject him, however she did say “promise me you won’t get AIDS.” He mentions his fear of telling his mother his diagnosis. He says “Well, since I have a show called The Big "A", I had better tell my mother.”
The reason I recommend this show is that it sharply and honestly portrays the journey from low self esteem to self acceptance. Horrigan mentions being in the waiting room at the Gay Men's Health Crisis and feeling “like a whore.” He also addresses the issue of growing up during the era of AIDS. “I saw the Ryan White Story!” He mentions his mother asking who gave it to him, because his mother wanted someone to blame. He says there is no “person to blame” and this is where he transitions from shame to self acceptance. After all, pigeons still fly, traffic still is traffic, celebrities are still crazy and life marches forward.
He ends the show responding to the rude email. I won’t divulge what he says, but it is brilliant, witty and truly awesome.
The Big "A" is definitely worth seeing, though I do wish the show was a bit longer. Dan Horrigan is a wonderful writer and actor who knows the delicate balance of comedy and tragedy. The show is artfully directed by Mat hew Di Carlo, and produced by Justin Scribner and Nick Catania and stage managed by Shelley Miles. The company manager is Laura A. Wright and the lighting designer is Josh Bradford.