MiniReview: "As Is" by William M. Hoffman

Programme from the play's first production, in 1985.

What is it?

It’s a play by William M. Hoffman, first presented in New York City in 1985, and published by Dramatists Play Service.


What’s it about?

Written and produced in the early days of the AIDS crisis, it’s a big play with a cast of 8 to 14 actors (depending on how the parts are allocated). At the heart of the story is a couple, Rich and Saul. They split up and Rich goes off with his new boyfriend. When Rich discovers he has AIDS, the new partner abandons him, and Rich returns to Saul. So it’s a tale of solidarity between people who are suffering. More largely, it’s a portrait of a community struggling with a mysterious plague, with scenes of AIDS hotlines, discussions groups, chat in gay bars, etc.


Is the play still interesting/relevant?

It was very much written in the heat of the action, so to speak, and it shows. There’s a desperation that comes through, a feeling of hopelessness, which is countered by humour. The playwright mentions in an introduction that he felt the humour was necessary to bring some light to the darkness. Today, though, it can sometimes feels flippant and forced. The humour may have been necessary at the time, but it doesn’t come across so well today. I also found the characters a bit generic, and the whole thing somewhat shapeless, even if there are moments of deep feeling.


So, worth reading?

It definitely has historical value, if you have a particular interest in the early days of AIDS, but even then, there are plays that have better withstood the test of time (such as The Normal Heart, which was produced the same year). Also, as a reading experience, it’s not great, as there are many scenes with overlapping dialogue that would need to be seen onstage for best effect. 

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