Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Normal Heart ***

This 25th anniversary production of Larry Kramer's ferocious drama about the early years of the health crisis that didn't yet even have a definitive name is actually its Broadway debut. For the occasion, the producers have gathered a powerful cast led by the superb Joe Mantello as Ned Weeks and the excellent Ellen Barkin as Dr. Emma Bruckner. The ensemble includes four stars of present or past TV series -- John Benjamin Hickey as Weeks' lover Felix Turner, Lee Pace as Bruce Niles, Jim Parsons as Tommy Boatwright and Luke Macfarlane in two small roles. All are fine, Hickey especially so. Patrick Breen shines in his big scene as Mickey Marcus,  Richard Topol impresses as two unsympathetic characters -- Hiram Keeler and the Examining Doctor, Wayne Alan Wilcox makes the most of a brief but shocking appearance early in Act One, but Mark Harelik seemed a bit wooden as Ned's brother Ben. The stark scenic design by David Rockwell serves the play well. The use of projections is restrained and effective. Several times, actors not in a particular scene are sitting around the edges of the set unlit; they are both bearing witness and in the dark. Joel Grey and George C. Wolfe share credit for directing. After 25 years, the play's weaknesses seemed diminished and its strengths increased.

P.S. You would be hard put to find a grimmer setting on Broadway than the Golden Theatre. The seats are tight, the decor (if one can call it that) is drab and the lighting is so dim that the ushers can't see the row or seat numbers. I hope the Shuberts will spring for some badly needed improvements!

No comments: