Playwright Larry Kramer is not a man of subtlety. This, however, is by no means an insult nor an unfavorable label. Take for example his groundbreaking play The Normal Heart, first performed off-Broadway in 1985, right as the HIV/AIDS epidemic was reaching a fevered pitch. Instead of tip-toeing around the then-delicate subject of the life-ravaging disease, Kramer's used his frustrations and anger -- at the government, the gay community, and the population at large, to name a few -- as an emetic force which yielded the searing, harrowing, incandescent, embittered, seething polemic that shrieked for the ears of the public. Kramer forwent gently coaxing audiences for their support and understanding. He pointed a finger at them and accused them of the worst possible crime he could think of: apathy. Startling as it was nearly 30 years ago, the recent Broadway debut (which just took home the Tony for Best Revival, as well as acting awards for John Benjamin Hickey and Ellen Barkin) serves as a reminder that while advances have been made in the fight against the devastating disease, there is still much work ahead of us. That being said, this production should not be seen as a two-hour diatribe and lecture on how and why AIDS is bad. At it's core, it entertains, it educates, and it demands action. Here in the Out offices, many have seen the play and reported back its remaining potency, citing that it perhaps is more vital today than ever.
Perhaps you still need convincing that this work urgently needs to be seen as a reminder that while HIV and AIDS was a devastating moment in gay history, it also served as a galvanizing force that ushered in a movement that would forever change the face of gay politics. But you don't need us to urge you into seeing this theatrical event. Famous names like Elton John, Cynthia Nixon, Nathan Lane, David Hyde-Pierce, Michael Urie, and Cheyenne Jackson all implore you to make this show a priority in your theatre-going to-do list. Particularly interesting is Nathan Lane's observation that today, some people may see AIDS as a distant epidemic that no longer affects the population -- but they would be wrong. Or that the new generation of queer men and women are too young to fully understand the overwhelming loss and neglect inflicted upon their own community and the governments choice to blithely ignore it. Time is limited to see this work -- it closes on July 10th -- but if you are in the New York area before then, this should be a required priority. But, again, don't take our word for it -- just watch the video below.
For more information on The Normal Heart, visit their website here.