MASQUERADE is available for production by emailing bcpkid AT gmail.com.
Based on the structure of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death,” Masquerade takes place over six hours at an East Village, NY apartment. Longtime partners Hersh and Mario prepare for a surprise costume party to “celebrate” their younger friend Doug’s HIV positive diagnosis. Having lived through the worst of he AIDS crisis, Hersh worries that everyone is getting too comfortable with the disease,
noting that they didn't invite their ailing downstairs neighbor Peter. Mario supports the idea of celebrating their friend’s life, while giving him an excuse to cook for everyone.
The guests arrive dressed as their favorite authors. Southern transplant Seth portrays Tennessee Williams, while Rodolfo is Miguel de Cervantes. His date, slightly bending the party rules, appears in character as 11-year-old Margaret of Judy Blume fame. Rodolfo and Hersh clash over the theme of the party, but both agree to not pursue the argument. Mario’s unmarried sister Angela arrives and verbally spars with longtime friend and foil Seth. Doug finally arrives to yells of “surprise,” much to his horror since he has unwittingly brought his mother along to what was supposed to be an intimate get-together with friends.
They all attempt to cover traces of the party, and keep Margaret away from Mrs. Melton (a kind soul who is nevertheless completely ignorant of anything but the basics of her son’s lifestyle). Mario convinces Mrs. Melton that having parties for no reason is a “gay thing”. Mrs. Melton settles in and all seems well until it comes time to cut the cake. Apparently having read the words “Sing It Loud, I’m Positive and Proud” before they were scraped off, Mrs. Melton innocently asks what they meant. Doug tells his mother the truth about his condition as Act I ends.
Act II begins 15 minutes later. Rodolfo explains to Mrs. Melton that the point of the party is to honor Doug’s life rather than focus on his illness. Hersh implores Doug to take her mother home, which leads to another, angrier exchange between Rodolfo and Hersh. Doug decides they should stay, and Mrs. Melton is made to feel at home, especially by Margaret (with whom she unexpectedly connects.) Doug and Rodolfo duck out and smoke a jay as Mario announces to the remaining partiers that is time to recite the author’s quotes each has prepared. After a few recitations, Mario halts the proceedings to bring Angela upstairs to meet a premed student who just moved in
Doud and Rodolfo reenter, wasted and laughing, and Rodolfo sings “The Man of La Mancha.” There is a knock and downstairs neighbor Peter arrives, looking like death itself. He brings events to a sobering halt by quoting from Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death.” Rodolfo challenges Peter, who leaves in anger. Mario and Angela return to the morgue-like atmosphere. Hersh laces into Rodolfo’s over the party, his lifestyle and attitude toward HIV, and lashes out at Mario’s desire to solve all problems with food. The argument ends as Rodolfo reveals that he, too, is HIV positive. Scared, Mrs. Melton demands to be brought home, but is comforted by Margaret, who doffs his wig and explains that he too is positive. Mrs. Melton impetuously decides to bring Margaret home with her.
Hurt by Hersh’s treatment of him and halfhearted attempt at an apology, Mario goes to bed in a huff, leaving Hersh on the sofa. The final scene takes place after midnight. Hersh still doesn’t understand what he has done. Mario explains that Hersh took the one thing Mario does well, providing nourishment to his friends, and made it insignificant. Hersh finally apologizes in earnest. The two reminisce about lost friends and how the face of HIV has changed over the years.
Mario, M, mid to late 40s: expressive, caring long-time partner of Hersh who seeks to solve the world’s problems with food
Hersh, M, judgmental partner to Mario who fears everyone has gotten too comfortable with HIV, and perhaps he has gotten too comfortable in his own life
Seth, M, 50s: sardonic transplanted Southener, who combines gentlemanliness with a vicious wit
Rodolfo, M, mid 20s: dashing, handsome, reckless “player” of the group who defies the threat of HIV
Margaret, M, early 20s: Rodolfo’s date who is in character as the Judy Blume prepubescent heroine
Doug, M, mid 20s: newly diagnosed positive recipient of the “HIV positive” party, who is struggling to tell his mother of his condition
Mrs. Melton, late 50s: Doug’s well-meaning but out of touch mother
Angela, F, early 30s: Mario’s unmarried sister
Peter: M, mid 30s: bitter downstairs neighbor who is suffering from the disease
"Petti...has written a well-rounded, fast paced play with witty one-liners, moving speeches, and real-life dialogue." Carol Montana, The Times Herald Record
...a 21st-century version of The Boys in the Band. Petti's play is a much-needed and well-timed examination of... the different generational attitudes about AIDS. Charles Battersby, OOBR
"...this script is GOOD! Well written, funny, tragic, meaningful, romantic and a masterpiece. The play milks all the comedy and drama out of the story it can. Petti is a very good writer....an extremely very good writer. This is a great play by a great playwright." Will Levesque, Doing Erie