At The Beginning of Time: A Reflection on AIDS and Loss

New play by Steve Galluccio explores Elderly Gay Men in Little Italy

Courtesy Centaur Theatre

From Feb. 21 to March 12, Centaur Theater Company will present At The Beginning of Time—the newest production by playwright Steve Galluccio.

Directed by Peter Hinton-Davis, this play takes place in March 2020, featuring three old gay friends in their 50s (played by Richard Jutras, Michael Miranda and Stephan Lawson) who encounter each other in an emergency room. 

Walking the line between reality and fantasy, Michael Gianfrancesco, set and costume designer, hopes to immerse the audience in the Montreal’s Little Italy of the 1970’s. 

The characters explore their past and reminisce about their experiences of joy and loss in a long, introspective discussion. “It’s about how love evolves in a person's life,” said Gianfrancesco.

According to Hinton-Davis, this collaboration between himself and Galluccio is a work of artistic evolution. Hinton-Davis explained that the script features a mix of comedy and drama that will immerse the audience in a new world without disconnecting them from the current reality. 

Hinton-Davis added that working with Galluccio on this story  was an “obvious” choice. The two men are similar in age to the play’s characters and are both gay–thus connecting them to the production’s themes. Even though each artist has a completely different approach to their craft, Hinton-Davis explained that this as a positive. “[It’s a new] dance,” said Hinton-Davis. “It's a difference [that] I'm interested in–not to fight about it, to embrace it, to grow, to become changed by it.”

Hinton emphasized that this play represents a period of reflection that everyone goes through at some point in their lives: the importance of remembering what one has experienced and how each person chooses to understand and heal from their suffering. 

Stephen Lawson is a part time professor in Concordia’s Theater Department and actor who is playing the role of Patricio. He pointed out how his character “takes life on a very deep level,” despite the hardship that he has been given. “It makes you think about what it means to be who you are in this world,”said Lawson 

Hinton-Davis explained that the show is in some ways a reflection on the covid-19 pandemic. Many of the characters lived through the AIDS pandemic, and parallels are drawn between these two tragedies. 

“It's a really wonderful sort of window [into] a generation that lived through the AIDS crisis, and I think it's important to keep those stories alive,” said Gianfrancesco. He added that there are few major plays that deal with Gay folks navigating AIDS during the 80s. 

"A lot of advocacy had to be done and a lot of fights had to be fought to recognize the value and importance of health care for people, for gay people, for LGBTQ people, for all people,” explained Hinton-Davis, reflecting on  his own experiences. 

The play is an occasion for young and older generations to reflect about their current, past and future lives as part of communities and the world as a whole, according to Hinton-Davis.

“It's a very funny, touching and moving script that I think can really be enjoyed by anyone,” said Gianfrancesco. “For people who weren't alive at that time or aren't connected to somebody who lived through that experience, it's a really great way to kind of understand that generation and what happened.”

“It tries to open your heart to a compassionate view of the world, and a critical one, too, ” said Hinton-Davis. 

This article originally appeared in Volume 43, Issue 11, published February 7, 2023.