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‘Jeffrey’ Has Right Blend To Make Aids Comedy Work

A comedy for the age of AIDS might sound like a contradiction in terms at best, a grotesquely misconceived effort at worst. But “Jeffrey,” the screen version of Paul Rudnick’s hit off-Broadway play, finds the right blend of absurdity, audacity and poignance to make the concept work.

“Jeffrey’s” lead character, a gay New Yorker played by Steven Weber, has sworn off sex out of a fear of AIDS. No sooner has he made his commitment to celibacy than he falls in love with a striking-looking man named Steve (Michael T. Weiss) who tests his resolve to the fullest.

With the help of a show-tune-loving gay priest played by Nathan Lane, an in-your-face self-help guru played with hilarious ruthlessness by Sigourney Weaver, and his best friends, a campy gay couple played with arch intensity by “Star Trek: The Next Generation’s” Patrick Stewart and Brian Batt, Jeffrey finds the resolution of his dilemma. Rudnick, who adapted his play for the screen, also offers Jeffrey the assistance of Mother Teresa, who shows up from time to time to nurse his physical and psychic bruises.

The picture is directed by veteran stage director Christopher Ashley, who has mounted the award-winning versions of the production in several cities. He draws sharp performances from his cast.

xxxx “Jeffrey’ Location: Magic Lantern Credits: Directed by Christopher Ashely, it stars Steven Weber, Patrick Stewart, Michael Weiss and Bryan Batt Running time: 1:32 Rating: R

Other views Here’s what other critics say about “Jeffrey:” Michael Rechtshaffen/The Boston Globe: After achieving considerable success in its original off-Broadway incarnation, “Jeffrey” has made the tricky leap to film, and the transplant has been fairly successful. Caryn James/New York Times: The film turns “Jeffrey” more than ever into a series of vignettes rather than a coherent story, calling attention to its uneven humor.

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