TimeLine Theatre presents THE NORMAL HEART.
In 1981, The New York Times published an article about ‘a rare cancer’ found in 41 homosexuals. In 2013, the Center for Disease Control reports 1.1 million Americans are living with the HIV infection. TimeLine Theatre strives to connect the present with the past. THE NORMAL HEART chronicles the genesis of AIDS awareness. Its 1985 premiere must have been an evocative shocker. Although TimeLine’s production may not be as shocking, it certainly is stunning.
Scenic and Lighting Designer Brian Sidney Bembridge creates a massive backdrop of book covered shelves. In front of it, he lines the stage with opaque sliding doors. Although they effectively move back and forth to create a hospital room, apartment, office, the glass wall is also brilliantly used for projections by Designer Michael Stanfill. Stanfill produces multiple 1980s collages to establish time period and public sentiment. At one point, he flashes up numerous newspaper obituaries. It become a wall memorial. The moment is gasp-worthy. The set is visually stunning.
Playwright Larry Kramer’s story is also stunning but in the baffling way that hindsight provides. Kramer depicts the nonchalance, ignorance and homophobia surrounding the AIDS discovery. His story, somewhat semi-autobiographical, has a writer turn alarmist turn activist. Kramer illustrates how swiftly a cancer oddity blew up into the AIDS epidemic. The cantankerous David Cromer (Ned) plays it perfectly off-putting. His the-sky-is-falling rant is loud, redundant and maddening. With the benefit of AIDS knowledge, I want to get on stage and shake the dashing Joel Gross (Bruce) and complacent Marc Grapey (Ben) into action. And also hug the tender-hearted Patrick Andrews (Felix) and sassy Alex Weisman (Tommy).
Under the masterful direction of Nick Bowling, THE NORMAL HEART has a well-paced beat. Bowling balances the historical outrage with humor and humanity. We care about these people. The terrific ensemble is so engaging I was stunned when it was over. I wanted to see Cromer and Grapey have one more heartfelt, brotherly scene. Alas, THE NORMAL HEART had to stop sometime. I highly recommend seeing THE NORMAL HEART for its dated but timeless content. It’s stunning!
SOAP BOX MOMENT: Having been a fag hag since 1994, I implore people to practice safe sex. There is no cure. AIDS still kills.
Running Time: Two hours and fifteen minutes includes an intermission
At Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont
Written by Larry Kramer
Directed by Nick Bowling
Wednesdays, Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays at 8pm
Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm
Sundays at 2pm
Thru December 22nd
Buy Tickets at www.timelinetheatre.com
Production photo by Lara Goetsch