The latest offering from Silo Theatre opens with a deftly manipulated puppet enacting the Apollo 11 moon landing.

The historic moment is watched by a couple of schoolboys until an almost imperceptible slippage has Neil Armstrong's one small step transmission shading into a deadpan commentary on a Melbourne teenager making his first tentative probe into the world of gay sexuality.

The production is peppered with similar moments of theatrical panache as it chronicles the life of Australian writer Timothy Conigrave, whose best-selling memoir Holding the Man was published a few months after the 35-year-old author died from an Aids-related illness.

The play follows the trajectory of a romance that began in the mid-70s at a Catholic boys' school and ends some 15 years later as the two lovers battle against the cruel progression of HIV-Aids that was invariably fatal before antiretroviral therapy.

The first half - driven by the pulsating rhythms of 80s disco - is full of gay abandon and audiences should be warned that some of the scenes proffer more information than you might care for on topics such as teenage masturbation and anal sex.

Dan Musgrove, in the role of Conigrave, captures the spirit of carefree hedonism but also suggests something of the emotional blankness that accompanies serial promiscuity.

Charlie McDermott, playing Conigrave's devoted partner John Caleo, shows the ability to convey a broad range of emotions with minimal gestures and under Shane Bosher's snappy direction, Alison Bruce and Matt Whelan are encouraged to bring individual flair to their lively characterisations of a dizzying succession of minor characters.

Although the presentation is consummately theatrical - with impressive use of life-size puppets and some unsettling excursions into the surreal world of morphine-fuelled dreams - the dominant tone is one of documentary realism.

The physical reality of terminal illness is relentlessly driven home with brutally frank accounts of medical procedures and precise descriptions of the emotional mayhem that arises out of the impossibility of parting from the one you love.

Unlike Tony Kushner's treatment of similar themes in Angels in America, the play avoids speculation about the metaphysical and political aspects of HIV.

Playwright Tommy Murphy seems content to say this is what it is and the audiences are left to construct their own meanings.