BWW Review: THE NORMAL HEART at Richmond Triangle Players is an Essential Piece of Theatre
"Sugar is the most important thing in my life. All the rest is just to stay alive." - Ned Weeks, THE NORMAL HEART
The Richmond Triangle Players' production of Larry Kramer's THE NORMAL HEART is not the most polished audiences have seen, but it is one of the most important and heartrending pieces of theatre the company has produced in recent years. While the story may be more compelling to those who lived through the AIDS crisis, it's imperative for millennials to visit this monumental time in LGBTQ history.
THE NORMAL HEART is the part-fictional/part-autobiographical account of the first years of the AIDS epidemic from 1981-1984. Shaded with tenderness, anger, courage and pride, Kramer's Tony-winning play follows a group of friends trying to grasp and govern a mysterious disease claiming the lives of gay men in New York and around the world. The timeliness of RTP's production can't be discounted either. While we now live in an age where an HIV diagnosis isn't the death sentence it was 20 years ago, the play's focus on LGBTQ political activism resonates just as much today as it did during the AIDS crisis.
Directed by George Boyd, Triangle Players' production moves at a steady pace given the energy of some notable performances, but drags during lengthy scene changes. Frank Foster's unpretentious set and Michael Jarrett's natural lighting design ensure focus is on Kramer's profound dialogue. Sheila Russ' costumes and Joel Furtick's hair and makeup design are perfect for the 1980s setting.
For THE NORMAL HEART to really work, the actor playing Ned Weeks has to be great. With a performance full of charisma and physicality, Jim Morgan carries the show very well. The production sputters without his passion. While he contends with some of Ned's understated emotional moments, his breakdown during the denouement delivers a satisfying payoff. As his older brother Ben, Andrew Boothby offers a subtle and striking performance. Stevie Rice is engaging as Felix Turner, and Dawn Westbrook shines as Dr. Emma Brookner-delivering a powerful and poignant final monologue.
THE NORMAL HEART runs through May 12 at the Robert B. Moss Theatre on Altamont Avenue. Purchase tickets here.