Run to the Golden Theatre if you want to be reminded of how alive you are.
You’ll be moved, enraged, buzzed, and haunted.
You will feel.
By the end of the masterful revival of Larry Kramer‘s The Normal Heart — directed by Joel Grey and George C. Wolfe — the audience has been put through an emotional wringer and is almost too shattered to applaud.
But they do. They cheer.
The classic play brings back the early days of AIDS — ’81 to ’84 — which were a pitch-dark period, and not just because of the disease itself.
As the lead character, journalist Ned Weeks (i.e., Larry Kramer) discovers, the horror of AIDS was greeted with denial, dismissiveness, bigotry, complacence, and a tragic refusal to address the epidemic head-on, and that includes in the gay community itself.
His battle to get the word out is the crux of this fiery drama, which would come off as self-aggrandizing or martyr-making, except it’s all true!
Kramer’s writing is as crisp and electric as it was 25 years ago, and it’s beautifully served by a top cast led by Joe Mantello, who’s superb — all neuroses and fury as the embattled gay leader who faces frustration and disinterest at every turn.
Powerful, gut-wrenching performances are also given by John Benjamin Hickey, Ellen Barkin, Patrick Breen, and Jim Parsons as Weeks’ boyfriend, medical confidante, and co-activists.
To add to the impact, the names of people who’ve died of AIDS flash on the set between scenes, increasing in number as the play chronologically advances.
By the end, the entire theater is swimming with lists upon lists of the dissed and departed.
Like I said, you will feel.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 27, 2011