Student play confronts AIDS issues

Natalie Smith

“Satan and Simon DeSoto,” a second-generation AIDS play by Ted Sod performed in the St. Mary’s Auditorium on April 13 and 14, centers around the life of a gay man struggling to continue living after testing positive for HIV. After sampling alternative medicines, doctors and treatments, he writes a letter to Satan as a last resort, asking for a pardon from what he believes is his death sentence. Satan, in the form of a well-connected Suit, answers and promises to cure him if he will complete three tasks.

DeSoto readily agrees and takes drastic measures in an attempt to cure his HIV. In a series of events, he denounces his sexuality and marries his best friend as a cover, becomes an outspoken anti-gay and racist comedian and transfers his disease to the love of his life who eventually dies as the result. The curtains fall after DeSoto’s lover confronts him and refuses to forgive him for what he has done.

While the sentiment behind the drama was stellar and praiseworthy, the play fell a little short of expectations. It tackled pertinent issues and stereotypes surrounding homosexuality and AIDS, as well as racism and feminism, but it never resolved any of the problems it brought into discussion. If anything, it almost perpetuated them – the strong-willed woman refusing to “stay in the kitchen” ends up alone and unhappy; high-ranking corporates or “Suits” are the devil; the general population is racist, anti-semantic, closed-minded toward homosexuality and willing to see all minorities to die from AIDS. The only representation of homosexual men in the play is as “sissies.” The take-home message seemed to be, “Accept the fate you bring upon yourself because you cannot hide from who you are,” but there was no positive outcome for any of the characters.

We know AIDS is a serious issue, we know it casts a dark shadow over the lives of many people, and we know homosexuals and minorities are misunderstood, so it would be nice to see something reach outside the stereotypes and try a different approach with a more positive message. None of these issues should be sugar coated, because they are serious problems in society, but another approach that tackled them and brought them full circle would show what we are working toward. What the public needs at the moment – whether it is more statements about how horrible society is or how we can ameliorate upon it – is not clear. Ideally, a great play would do both, which this play did not.

First-time directors Amy Knop-Narbutis and Courney L. Sexton did a good job with their cast of six. While the male leads were a little weak (several slurred lines and mixed-up phrases), the part of Lana, played by Charlotte Thurston, was the most enjoyable. Some of the scenes would have run more smoothly if the cast had captured more of the emotion necessary to draw in the audience and connect them to the issues on stage, but the play got better as it continued. All in all, the play was decent, and considering it was completely voluntary and put together to help the ONE Campaign to fight AIDS and Poverty, more Villanova students should have attended. For more information about the ONE campaign, visit