Every year, Pacific’s Center for Gender Equity (CGE) puts on a production that uses the material of the play to explore their mission. Usually, the annual CGE play alternates between “The Laramie Project” by Moisés Kaufman and “The Vagina Monologues” by Eve Ensler. This year, CGE and senior Theatre major Janna Tessman paired up and decided to stage “Jeffrey,” a play by Paul Rudnick about a young gay actor/waiter for whom the show is named.
Playing the title role is freshman Eric Asakawa. He knows firsthand how controversial the show is. “Jeffrey is a very unique protagonist in that he has a ton of sex. He loves sex. In the first scene alone, he is seen in bed with five different men. He knows there is no shame in being kind of a huge slut in a big city” Asakawa said.
As the show progresses, Jeffrey becomes obsessed with safe sex, a repercussion of his terror of AIDS. Because of this, “he tries to find replacements for sex, like working out, spiritual advice, and a masturbation club,” said Tessman, the director of the show. While doing this, Jeffrey meets Steve, played by freshman Jacob Goodyear. As much as Jeffrey feels he could love Steve, he can’t bring himself to date Steve because he is HIV-positive. The rest of the play follows Jeffrey’s struggles with his fear of AIDS and his love for Steve.
Playing the role of Jeffrey has been a challenge for Asakawa. “I really had to draw from my training for this part. First off, the sheer volume of line I have is unprecedented for me. This character carries the entire show. He is both the main character and the narrator, a deadly combination in terms of memorization.”
Director Janna Tessman has a firm foundation of how she would like the play to be interperated. “This play is about sex. It’s about men having sex with each other to be more specific. Though sex can be considered a metaphor for all of the joys in this life, I view the depictions of sex as necessary to the story, while also being funny and fun to watch.”
In addition to producing the play to support CGE, Tessman has a specific message she’d like to get across to her audience. “Sex is something that I wish we as a society were more comfortable with talking about and I hope when our audiences leave the theatre, their conversations will include sex.”
Asakawa has his own opinions about the content of the show. “I will not apologize to anyone else about them. The controversial scenes are awkward. Part of their humor is pure shock value. Yes, Jeffrey goes to a masturbation club (The Lower Manhattan Gentlemen’s Masturbation Society, to be specific), and yes, he gets hit on by a Catholic priest. I won’t deny that there are weird scenes here. But it’s nothing college students can’t handle. I think. Probably. In any case, please don’t bring children” Asakawa said.
To supplement Tessman’s message for the viewers, Asakawa has his own agenda as to what he’d like to have the audience thinking about as they leave. “We may be taking great strides in the fight against HIV, but those who are living with it are still stigmatized by society, a subject we tend to avoid. People with HIV are still people; the only difference is that they have an added challenge in life. We need to humanize people living with AIDS, because that is what they deserve.”
Other cast members include Gavin Knittle as Sterling, Tyler Oshiro as Darius, Ashley Wilsey as Ann, Anabel Gonzales as Debra, Michael Sproles as Don and Olin Blackmore as Sean.
Performances of “Jeffrey” will be shown on Feb. 16, 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $7.50 for general admission or $5 for students.