Theatre Review: “The Normal Heart” @ ACT SF, 9/19/12

If you don’t know anything about The Normal Heart, then read the beginning of the press release:

“Direct from its acclaimed Broadway run, Larry Kramer’s landmark 1985 drama unfolds like a real-life political thriller as a tight-knit group of friends refuse to let doctors, politicians, and the media bury the truth about an epidemic ravaging the gay community. Their differences could tear them apart—or change the world.”

What it doesn’t mention is how moving and heart-wrenching this production is. It also doesn’t mention that by the end of the evening you’ll be in tears. But don’t worry, you’ll also be laughing quite a bit throughout the evening as well. The juxtaposition between funny/sad, light/dark, upbeat/serious is absolute perfection in The Normal Heart and I think that is why it’s so incredibly moving.

Honestly, I walked out of the theatre and unable to speak for quite some time. As I was trying to process what I had just seen, my emotions ran the gamut from outrage to compassion to love to sadness and to heartache, all in response to all of the different situations and relationships that were portrayed in The Normal Heart

Ned Weeks (Patrick Breen, left) and his lover Felix Turner (Matt McGrath) in The Normal Heart—playing at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater, September 13–October 7, 2012. Photo by Kevin Berne.

The beautiful emotional arc of each character lets you create deep bonds with every one of them. The play is centered around Ned Weeks (the phenomenal Patrick Breen) and his lover, Felix Turner (Matt McGrath). Weeks’ emotional outbursts and courageous personality was inspiring to watch. His passion to get the truth out to the world about the AIDS epidemic saved thousands, if not millions of lives (even though, as you learn through the night, that the AIDS epidemic could have almost been curtailed if people cared at the beginning). If Weeks wasn’t at the forefront of this cause, how many other people would have suffered from this disease? I shudder thinking about it. When people swept the bad news “under the rug”, Weeks was there fighting through it and making people listen. He wasn’t perfect, but he had more passion than I can ever dream of.

(I feel like I’m writing a eulogy, but in a sense I am.)

The most impressive thing about this production and the reason why every person — gay, straight, or bi — needs to see this is two-fold:

  1. It is more relevant now, in 2012, than when it was written in 1985. The language in this play feels like it was written yesterday, not 27 years ago. The play starts in July 1981 — the month and year I was born. Every moment on the stage is something that occurred in my lifetime. And every moment on the stage is something that every person should understand about our American history. It directly affects everything that is happening with our current social/political climate.
  2. AIDS has killed 1.8 million people in 2010. 34 million people are currently living with this disease. This war is not over. Do something to help. Information is key. We need a “new” Ned Weeks screaming from the roof tops about it. This production reminds every audience member that AIDS activism is not over.

Every actor in this production was fantastic. The cast, as a whole, was one of the strongest casts I’ve ever seen. They understood each other on a deeper level than most casts ever get to. It could be the content, or even a fluke, but whatever the reason, it’s a very special thing to witness.

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5 thoughts on “Theatre Review: “The Normal Heart” @ ACT SF, 9/19/12

  1. I saw this while visiting New York on the weekend when NY had just approved gay marriage – electric atmosphere! Thrilled to hear the revival is still touring x

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