Eric Kibler's Reviews > The Normal Heart

The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer
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May 04, 12

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Read in May, 2012

This is a loosely autobiographical play about Larry Kramer's AIDS awareness crusade of the early eighties. Ned Weeks (the Kramer character) had two difficulties: first, the straight media was unwilling to give headlines to what was perceived as a "gay disease", and gay journalists and officials were unwilling to come out of the closet and say what needed to be said. Second, the gay community, fresh from its own sexual revolution, was rebellious against any idea of abstinence.

I'm of two minds here. There are some very affecting scenes here that I can't wait to see some friends of mine play out (this play will be performed locally in the fall). But the play is dated. Important though it was, we no longer need to be convinced that AIDS needs our attention. This play was a polemic intended to do just that. Nowadays, we're all part of the choir this play is preaching to. There's also a flood of statistics on almost every page. Will today's audiences lose patience with a play that's proving something they already know?

One factor that makes the play more, rather than less intriguing is realizing how little was known about the AIDS virus in the mid-eighties. It was assumed that it passed through some sexual contact, but even the medical community was unsure exactly how this was happening, why primarily gay men were getting sick, whether or not it was passed by kissing, etc. These days, now that so much is known, even by school kids, that we forget what an abyss of uncertainty and paranoia people were living in back then.

Ned Weeks is an outspoken loudmouth Jewish writer. Reading this play, and realizing who was going to be playing the part, made me imagine my friend playing another outspoken loudmouth Jewish writer, Harlan Ellison. Now that I REALLY want to see. There ought to be a one man show where that could be done.
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