Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Must See: The Normal Heart

This past Saturday, I saw The Normal Heart, one of the most powerful and important plays I have ever seen on Broadway. When I first heard about the play, the only things I knew about it were that it dealt with the AIDS crisis in New York City back in the early 80s and that a few of my favorite actors have been cast. Seeing Larry Kramer's play in person though was really an unforgettable experience. Let's just say that if you do end up seeing this, and I highly recommend that you do, bring lots of tissues.

Joe Mantello plays the main character Ned Weeks. I knew nothing about the actor before this play and he simply blew me away. Ellen Barkin plays the doctor that convinces Ned to take action by informing the gay community about this new disease killing everyone. While Barkin was solid, I felt she overacted a lot of her scenes, which actually worked out well in the second act as her frustrations and anger become much more palpable and justified.

Lee Pace, Jim Parsons, and Patrick Breen play Ned's associates who help him form an organization to take lead in this battle. Their disagreements with one another and especially with Ned's aggressive way of dealing with others form the backbone of the play.

Pace looks ridiculously handsome even with his 80s porntache and he and Mantello get a few great scenes to duke it out while Parsons' is left with the bulk of the play's comic relief referring himself as the "Southern Bitch" and flirting with most of the cast. It really is a sight to behold. Breen gets the least flashy role, but one of the best monologues/scenes in the play when he breaks down in front of his friends after being fed up by this seemingly hopeless fight. It is one of the many times I was openly sobbing. Luke McFarlane plays two bit roles, but it looks like he had a great time for his Broadway debut.

Finally we have Mark Harelik who plays Ned's brother and John Benjamin Hickey who play's Ned's lover. The relationships they both have with Ned are important parts to the play as wells as to Ned's formation as a character. While Harelik seemed a bit too reserved for my liking, Hickey was phenomenally open making most of his scenes all the more heart-wrenching and real.

So in summary, go see this play. It is not only beautiful and heartbreaking, but it is also an important part of gay history. It is only running for a limited 12-week run, but I hope it stays on longer even with a different cast, because I truly believe that everyone should see (or read) this play at least once.

Read a similarly positive review over at

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the recommendation! This looks fantastic. I must get on seeing this pronto.


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