Mantello navigates Ned's symphonic rage expertly, never alienating us even when the character easily could...Kramer's indispensable work tells us who we were and how we got here. Such knowledge is indispensable for knowing where we should be headed and how to get there. If you see only one play this year, make it "The Normal Heart."
THE NORMAL HEART Broadway Reviews
Reviews of The Normal Heart on Broadway. See what all the critics had to say and see all the ratings for The Normal Heart including the New York Times and More...
The faultless ensemble includes an impeccable John Benjamin Hickey as the first man to break through Ned’s defenses and Ellen Barkin as an early AIDS doctor, who brings down the house with a frustrated tirade about the slow official response to the epidemic. Pace commands tears with a superb account of the death of his lover, a passage that holds its own against the most gruesome messenger monologues of Greek tragedy. Jim Parsons provides exemplary comic relief and unexpected depth as a Southern activist in Ned’s group, and Patrick Breen, Mark Harelik, Luke Macfarlane, Richard Topol and Wayne Alan Wilcox offer admirable support. The entire company acts up a storm, and the production leaves you drenched. The Normal Heart is hectoring, stiff and one-sided; it is also raw, scary and galvanizing. That’s Kramer in a nutshell, and his kind of nuts we still need.
By the end of the masterful revival of Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart--directed by Joel Grey and George C. Wolfe--the audience has been put through an emotional ringer and is almost too shattered to applaud. But they do. They cheer.
Larry Kramer's seminal AIDS drama "The Normal Heart" is the kind of show that hits you like a jackhammer. Twenty-five years since it premiered at the Public Theater, it remains a powerful example of political theater at its most direct, passionate and urgent levels. Mantello captures Weeks' confrontational, occasionally hysterical spirit but combines it with easygoing charisma and convincing emotion. He is joined by an outstanding ensemble cast.
In a Broadway season robust with bravura performances, comes another that makes demands of our souls along with our ears...As played -- no, embodied -- by Mantello with fathomless compassion and dignity (not to mention charm and humor), Ned is impossible to ignore. "The Normal Heart" is unabashed agitprop, which is rarely welcome on Broadway, and Ned Weeks is an unlikely hero. But as "Jerusalem" is also showing us, not all heroes wear white hats. Some are unpleasant company, doing what they must, demanding that attention be paid.
Directed by George C. Wolfe and Joel Grey (who took over the role of Ned from Brad Davis during the original run), the production clearly is a labor of love. Under their guidance, the company’s acting is bold and powerful, with a genuinely raw edge to its emotions that rubs the starch out of the play’s overtly socio-political contents. The look is appropriately stark, with a white box of a set subtly designed by David Rockwell that gradually grows darker with the play’s mounting toll of mortality.
Back then, "The Normal Heart" was a raging, wailing wakeup call. Now it's a look back, a period piece. But one with the power to make you wince and weep.
More than a quarter of a century after it first scorched New York, "The Normal Heart" is breathing fire again...the play remains a bruiser. This is a production, after all, in which the showstoppers are diatribes. (One delivered by Ms. Barkin, playing an endlessly frustrated doctor, receives the kind of sustained applause usually reserved for acrobatic tap dancers.) What this interpretation makes clear, though, is that Mr. Kramer is truly a playwright as well as a pamphleteer.
"The Normal Heart" was never meant to be a subtle work. Larry Kramer wrote it in 1985 to be a shock to the system, an alarm siren, a blunt instrument to bludgeon Ed Koch's New York, Ronald Reagan's Washington, the indifferent press and complacent medical industry into acknowledging the mysterious disease destroying gay men..."The Normal Heart" still beats today.
It may be a time capsule of a play, but the sterling new Broadway revival of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart reveals that it has lost none of its urgency or power. A semi-fictionalized account of the beginning of the AIDS crisis and the efforts of a group of dedicated activists to spur the city and country into action, this work, first seen in 1985 in a landmark production at the Public Theater, is relentlessly gripping and moving.
In this shattering revival of Larry Kramer's polemical howl of anger and despair, The Normal Heart, the 30 years since the first whispers of what became known as AIDS were heard and ignored evaporate in an instant...marquee value is not the point here; this is a spectacularly well-cast production in which every role has found its ideal interpreter. This is tough, unflinching drama staged and performed by people with a fierce emotional investment in telling this story and keeping this painful history alive for generations inclined to forget.
There's so much urgency in Kramer's play that it doesn't exactly qualify as a historical artifact. It also brings up a lot of issues, like gay marriage and the right to inherit, that remain relevant outside their original context. Mostly, though, the play still works because it has the power to move and disturb us. As the play's original producer, Joe Papp, put it: "I love the ardor of this play, its howling, its terror and its kindness."
Larry Kramer's historic play about the beginning of an epidemic that has killed millions can be seen as a time capsule of a period when the disease was first emerging. But it can also be a cautionary tale for any horror we have yet to fully grasp...Mantello manages to make his unlovable Weeks lovable and he steers clear of hagiography. Joel Grey and George C. Wolfe co-direct and push the throttle - each scene is fraught with emotion, anger is quick to explode, papers are tossed with abandon, and any moment of humor is milked for the relief it offers from a hectic production.
At the heart of the new production, directed by Joel Grey and George C. Wolfe, is a subtle and superb performance by Joe Mantello...This is not a great play, to be honest. There is too much speechifying by characters who are too easily interchangeable. But as a chronicle of a historical moment, The Normal Heart still packs a serious emotional wallop.
In its Broadway debut with a starry cast that includes Joe Mantello, Ellen Barkin and Jim Parsons, "The Normal Heart" hasn't lost any of its anger or biting humor, but it feels more like a fascinating time capsule. Most impressive is John Benjamin Hickey as Ned's lover. As he changes from handsome, assured newspaper reporter into a shell of a man ravaged by disease, he embodies the painful intersection of the political and the personal where "The Normal Heart" beats.
Now that AIDS has become a chronic condition rather than a death sentence, Mr. Kramer's play must stand on its artistic merits, not its impassioned sincerity. How does it hold up? Better than I expected, but not as well as I'd hoped. Mr. Kramer portrays himself as a flawed but ultimately heroic figure...that he really did make a historic contribution to the fight against AIDS doesn't make the portrayal any easier to swallow without gagging.