There were moments while I was watching The Normal Heart at Arena Stage last night when I wanted to stand up and cheer.
And then there were moments when I wanted to curl up in a ball and wail uncontrollably.
The touring revival of Larry Kramer’s Tony award-winning play, set in 1980s-New York City right at the cusp of the AIDS epidemic, is all sorts of intense. It’s also poignant, touching, angering, and at times genuinely funny.
The show is an important piece of work that should be seen by everyone—gay or straight. And it really should be required viewing for us “young” gays.
It’s a brilliant period piece about America’s recent history that I’m sure some historians would rather conveniently gloss over. It’s a clarion call that forces you to consider whether you’ve done enough to chip away at the institutionalized homophobia that has oppressed LGBT Americans for decades. And it’s also a love letter, a fierce reminder that we do what we have to for the people we love.
To me, though, it’s most of all a bittersweet reminder of what our gay forefathers endured to pave the way for recognition and for equality.
I walked out of the show utterly inspired.
Things have certainly come a long, long way since 1985. I’m grateful I live at a time when I can be openly gay and in a place where I can marry my hot Cuban sandwich (in a handful of states, at least).
But there’s still a lot of work to be done, lest we rest on recent gains which, although significant, are incomplete.
Even though many are finally accepting the fact that people are literally born this way, and the majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage, we are not quite there yet. Most Republicans still want to deny me equal protection under the law. Segments of Christianity still think I’m going to hell. And many, I’m sure, still think I’ve got a kinky leather outfit in my closet somewhere. (For the record, I don’t. It’s cashmere all the way, man.)
As The Normal Heart reminded me so effectively, there’s risk in complacency. Ned Weeks (played by the outstanding Patrick Breen) vociferously railed his friends for staying silent in the face of blatant inequality. If we do so, he argued, “we are doomed.”
The show inspired me. I may not be your stereotypical march-on-Washington activist, but I’m making damn sure in my own small way that the voices of LGBT Americans—starting with mine—are never silenced again.
Bottom line: The Normal Heart is staggeringly good, and the cast is terrific. And you may just walk away feeling fired up. It’s playing at Arena Stage until July 29, so make sure you check it out. Click here for ticket info.
And of course, photos with the cast!