Alchemy Theater Company
Simon & Schuster Audio
The Normal Heart is the Titanic of AIDS plays --
Titanic the movie, not the ship. In fact, in a recent
Off-Broadway revival at the Alchemy Theater Company, Larry Kramer's
thinly veiled autobiographical drama proved that it still floats,
despite the enormous medical, political and cultural shifts in the
13 years since its original production. Even Kramer's long political
rants are gripping; the deaths that resulted from the government's
(and, yes, The New York Times') cold-blooded AIDS denial
remain shockingly tragic.
Kramer and Titanic writer-director James Cameron take a
similar dramatic approach: Put a love affair in the middle of a
disaster. Indeed, the relationship between Ned (a.k.a. Kramer) and
Felix, a fashion reporter for the Times, is among Kramer's
most playful, sexy and tender writing. Equally interesting is the
depiction of the infighting that characterized the founding of Gay
Men's Health Crisis (GMHC). The characters argue incessantly over
whether change is best achieved through working within the system or
attacking it from the outside. In light of GMHC's startling recent
endorsement of HIV reporting after years of staunch opposition, it
is clear that the inside/out argument has yet to be resolved.
The Off-Broadway production -- which featured perfectly pitched
performances by Scott Galbraith as Felix and Kate Levy as an early
AIDS doc -- won critical acclaim, ironically from the Times.
But don't worry if you missed it: The all-star recording of a 1993
benefit performance (with an introduction by Barbra Streisand) is
splendid. If you've never listened to a play on a CD before, this is
the one to start with: Stockard Channing, Eric Bogosian, Harry
Hamlin, Kevin Bacon and a dynamite David Drake wring every laugh and
tear out of Kramer's play.