By Ellis Nassour
The ultimate casting coup of the season is the cast of the acclaimed, very limited run revival [through July 10] of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart. Joel Grey and George C. Wolfe have assembled pure magic onstage.
There are blistering moments from Ellen Barkin, building slowly into a performance possibly only her mother thought she could achieve; the always reliable John Benjamin Hickey topping anything he’s done before; Joe Mantello, whom you must beg the question, "Why in the world did you ever leave acting to direct?"; and handsome drink-of-water Lee Pace pulling something out of his psyche that maybe even he didn’t know was there.
However, perhaps the biggest surprise is Jim Parsons, so funny in his classic deadpan way on TV’s Big Bang Theory and proving, in his Bway debut, underneath that façade is one of the best comic actors ever.Kramer states, "Everything in The Normal Heart happened. These were and are real people who lived and spoke and died, and are presented here as best I could. Several more have died since."
Those include Paul Popham and Rodger McFarlane, who embody the characters of Bruce and Tommy. Dr. Linda Laubenstein, boldly portrayed in the play by Ellen Barkin as Dr. Emma Brooker, from a return bout of polio.
According to Kramer, four members of the original cast died, including Kramer’s long-time friend Brad Davis [Midnight Express], who played Ned Weeks.
Kramer has been out front as audiences exit handling out a letter crammed with startling facts. Why?
"To get the word out, again," he states. "AIDS is a worldwide plague. No country, including the U.S., has ever called it a plague, acknowledged it as one or dealt with it as one. After all this time, the amount of money being spent to find a cure is still miniscule, impossible to locate in any national health budget. Research is totally uncoordinated."
He notes that case numbers continue to rise here and abroad. "The numbers are so grotesquely high, they’re rarely acknowledged. All efforts at prevention and education continue their unending record of abject failure."
He puts the number of infections at least 75 million, the number of deaths at a staggering 35 million.
According to Karmer, "Most medication are inhumanly expensive and government funding for the poor to obtain them is dwindling and often unavailable. The pharmaceutical companies are among the most evil and greedy nightmares ever loosed on humankind. What ‘research’ they embark upon is calculated only toward finding newer drugs to keep us, just barely, from dying; but not to make us better or, God forbid, cured."
Help Make AIDS History
HELP MAKE AIDS HISTORY
Join GMHC for the 26th Annual AIDS Walk New York on May 15th.
More than 100,000 New Yorkers live with HIV – and one-in-five don’t know. AIDS Walk New York is the world’s largest AIDS fundraiser with 45,000 coming together across the country to fight AIDS to support medical needs and fighting poverty, hunger and homelessness.
AIDS Walk New York benefits GMHC and tri-state AIDS service organizations, ensuring life-saving care and cutting-edge HIV prevention work continues.
Other AIDS Walk cities include Boston, Houston, L.A., Orlando, San Diego and S.F. Supporting this year’s campaign are Duane Reade, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Delta Airlines, Bloomberg, WCBS-TV, 1010 WINS, Gap, Barclays Capital, Empire Blue Shield and, among others, the Village Voice.
To make a matching gift donation, register to walk, form or join a team, be a volunteer and more information, visit www.aidswalk.net/newyork.