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Chris Mason Johnson’s ‘Test’, with Choreography by Sidra Bell opens June 6, 2014….

June 4, 2014

Test-Poster-XL-001Chris Mason Johnson’s Test is an intriguing film that takes place in the dance world during the early years of the AIDS epidemic…so many dancers were losing weight and not knowing why, their energies levels diminishing slowly and watched for the reddish purple skin lesions….Gay Cancer it was called…

In 1985 the virus that causes AIDS was identified and the first blood test was available,t for when the test. When was announced to the public, that was terrifying…did you even want to know if you had the virus…what do you do if you do.…so many did not. For some ignorance was bliss…for those that were found to be positive…many wrapped themselves in shrouds of defeat…

The film takes place in San Francisco and centers on the lives of two male dancers, Frankie, portrayed by Scott Marlowe, the young wide-eyed ingénue who is facing the challenges of being an understudy in a modern dance company where he is taunted to “dance like a man” and Todd, portrayed by Matthew Risch, who is his polar opposite, he is the rough and tumble “butch” bad-boy, free-spirited, somewhat jaded who is again and again drawn to Frankie’s innocence.

Scott Marlowe as ‘Frankie” in Chris Mason Johnson’s Test

Scott Marlowe as ‘Frankie” in Chris Mason Johnson’s Test

Monogamy was as unnatural to most gay men of this era as would be a snowstorm in Florida on July 4th.  Some men stopped having sex, fear of the AIDS/HIV virus ruling their lives, while other gay men could not and/or did not want to stop; promiscuity was equivalent to freedom, something that was denied to gays and lesbians in the early 80’s.

The film portrays Frankie living a stark and predominantly solitary existence. He listens to music on his Sony Sports Walkman (…I had one just like it…), attends rehearsals and walks around San Francisco in his free time. There is an aura of innocence about him, a young man discovering himself, finding his own voice as an artist.

This is the story of his coming of age in a time when just coming out as Gay could be so traumatic. Frankie finds himself in a world where the wrong decision could mark the outcome of your life….the person you have sex with could be the person that unknowingly infects you with HIV.

As both writer and directory, Chris Mason Johnson explores the subject matter with intelligence and sensitivity as he shows us a brief glimpse in the lives of gay men that lived during that era. In 89 minutes, he takes you own a journey that is rewarding, upsetting and real. It’s a great film and a wonderful slice of Gay History brought to the big screen. He portrays the fear, just not from the Gay community, but from the Heterosexuals as well…fear of being infected by other’s sweat or drinking from the same glass as a gay man and a time when the question was…should Gays be quarantined as a whole from the rest of society….

But, it is the choreography used in this film that has me watching it again and again. Sidra Bell has stripped away her theatrics, no foggy atmosphere, no black dungeon costumes, no interchangeable genders…it is a Ms. Bell at her best. She strips away everything and delivers movement that is emotional, raw and innovative.

The smallest of gestures is developed, a shoulder role is used to initiate the arcing of an arm that is followed through with the whole body. Though Scott Marlowe’s character “Frankie” is chided to dance like a man…I found his dancing throughout the film masculine and possessed a passion that cannot be forced, it’s either there are it’s not. Scott Marlowe with his long, lean line moved with a sensual lyricism that made me want to see him on stage in real life. Mr. Marlowe dances with and is also now an Artistic Associate with San Francisco based LEVYdance.

The film opens June 6th, 2014…

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