A collaborative venture between 20 Bay Area artists and an unprecedented, defiantly upbeat response to the terrifying onset of the AIDS crisis, the show took aim at the still largely repressed issue of safe sex through such numbers as Karl Brown and Matthew McQueen's cheeky sizzler "Rimmin' at the Baths" and their equally clever and forthright "Safe Livin' in Dangerous Times" (both beautifully rendered by the full cast of Theatre Rhinoceros), as well as the terrible toll in drastically foreshortened lives (seen here from the perspective of a mother, affectingly played by Bushman, in Adele Prandini's "Momma's Boy"). The AIDS Show, which went on to tour the country and put the Rhino on the national map, premiered to packed houses in 1984, the year its creator and Rhino founder Estes died of the disease.
This show's parts three and four deal with the growing diversity of voices and issues in the years of relative liberation and mainstream exposure for the LGBT population. A scene from Brad Erickson's Sexual Irregularities (played by Weimer and Kim Larsen) broaches the conflict between homosexuality and religion, a theme increasingly explored in new work for the stage, while one from Guillermo Reyes's Deporting the Divas (played by Larsen and Mike Vega) points to the increasing presence of minority voices, reporting on the gay experience from the perspectives of particular ethnic subcultures.
In the postmodern micropolitics of sexual identity characteristic of the new millennium (and spoofed hilariously by Weimer, Larsen, and Vega in a scene from Fisher's Barebacking), queer theater is characterized by increasingly hybrid categories and a plethora of voices from all sectors of experience. The cast sums up the road thus far with a characteristically proud and wry glance at the possibilities ahead in the show's final, original number, "The Rhino" (by Seaver, with lyrics by Weimer). But, to invoke an older song, anything goes.
THEATRE RHINOCEROS: THE FIRST THIRTY YEARS
Through Oct. 14
Wed.Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 and 7 p.m.; $15$35
2926 16th St., SF