In 1986, playwright Paula Vogel’s brother Carl invited her on a trip to Europe. Burdened with professional obligations and lack of financial means, she declined. Sadly, Carl died from complications of AIDS two years later. Having never gotten to take the European trip with her brother, Vogel instead wrote an imagined version in The Baltimore Waltz. Darkly funny and searingly satirical, the play examines AIDS and the government’s response to it using an absurd fictional disease: Acquired Toilet Disease (ATD). In a series of dreamlike comic scenes, travel-phobic schoolteacher Anna ventures out on a European romp with her brother Carl after being diagnosed with ATD. What begins as a surreal sitcom ends with a whiplash snap to realism and a bittersweet revelation that has left critics spellbound. Visceral, multilayered, and metaphorical, the play is one part farce and one part political statement with themes that still ring true more than three decades later.
The Baltimore Waltz guide sections