nytheatre.com review by Jo Ann Rosen
August 13, 2011
In Infectious Opportunity, playwright James Comtois begins with an "error" of omission, and builds on it incrementally until it grows to career-threatening proportions. He uses artful storytelling to show ambition at its most twisted and ethics at its lowest level. The appealing trick is that he does it with nuance and humor and with a cast that understands the psychological stakes of its main characters.
In the play, Wes, a college film student, becomes a consummate opportunist, when the film of another student, Rob, becomes the talk of the campus. To get closer to Rob, who happens to be HIV+, Wes sympathizes with Rob’s ailments and hints that he is likewise afflicted. Wes gains admission to Rob’s support therapy group where he meets Josie, an addict, who becomes his friend and conscience. Wes’s films, all based on his experience with HIV+, become wildly popular, as does he, launching a successful career, with the help of Brent, his college friend and publicist.
The cast is very good. There are a couple of standouts. David Ian Lee slips into the role of Wes with just enough lubricant to make it look easy. He’s an appealing college kid, who takes on a slightly slimy appearance once you know that he will do anything to be in the limelight. As an adult, he is the ultimate con man. Jessi Gotta gives the show its vitality with her luminous good looks and graceful movement and mannerisms. As Josie, she brings depth and range to her character. She is seductive, winning, and bitingly ironic. She provides the best strategy for deceptive interviews while simultaneously calling Wes on his life of lies. Then there is the excellent Daryl Lathon, as the enthusiastic publicist, whose livelihood feeds off of Wes and who will do anything to perpetuate his successes.
Adeptly directed by Pete Boisvert, Comtois’s play is a good one on many fronts. His characters are real, their flaws believable, and he makes it conceivable that disease could play second fiddle to ambition. He adds texture and consistency by structuring Infectious Opportunity like a screenplay. Scenes change smoothly with Josie announcing "interior" and "exterior." On other occasions, Josie, as Wes’s conscience, comes into sharp relief as Wes’s film class freezes in time. Time flashes forward.
In fact, the show covers a ten-year period. During that time, Wes encounters friends and professors, and enough obstacles to threaten his spiral upward. But, Comtois keeps his character focused. And it pays off in two heightened scenes where Wes decides to come clean on his lie: one with Josie and one with Brent. The scenes demonstrate how high the stakes have become for Wes and also for those who believe him and depend on him. It is a morality play, where the characters know right from wrong, but in the context of celebrity and success find it difficult to take the high road. How relevant is that today?