I’ve been more than a little surprised to see lots and lots of discounted tickets popping up on online bargain websites for the American Conservatory Theater’s production of The Normal Heart. Last year, A.C.T.’s lighthearted Tales of the City was a tough ticket, and its run was extended multiple times. But this season’s gay-themed mainstage production appears to be lacking buzz. As playwright Larry Kramer might say (or scream): Shame!
Kramer’s scorching 1985 autobiographical drama about the early days of AIDS in New York is a ferociously emotional and political work of theater that was “ripped from the headlines” when first produced and today might be called “ripped from the history books.” The play helped catalyze and amplify community anger over the dismissal of the burgeoning epidemic by government and the medical institutions, and begin to move our country forward toward saner policy. The Normal Heart proved that art can make a difference in American society.
The production at A.C.T., directed by George C. Wolfe, won last year’s Tony for Best Revival of a Play. Currently in preview performances, it officially opens next Wednesday.
Do San Franciscans feel The Normal Heart will bring back too many difficult memories? In the face of Prop 8, Mitt Romney, and rising presence of AIDS among younger generations, are today’s gay men so ready to bury our heads and ignore the still urgent messages of this landmark piece of political art? Here’s a fascinating interview with Kramer, conducted in conjunction with the play’sopening in New York last year.
Man up, San Francisco, and support this important production.