Should you ever find yourself having to choose the most galvanizing play of the last 30 years, you wouldn't be wrong to name The Normal Heart
, Larry Kramer's scalding 1985 drama about the HIV/AIDS epidemic then decimating the gay community in America. Written at a time of appalling official apathy, it tells the story of Kramer's fictional alter ego, Ned Weeks, as he tries to rouse a hostile political and medical establishment to take action against AIDS while desperately urging his fellow gay men to come out of the closet and fight for their lives. At once a manifesto, an indictment, and a cri de coeur, the play has gone from being a searing call for action to a cultural landmark.
"This play is comparable to Uncle Tom's Cabin
," says playwright Tony Kushner, the author of another groundbreaking play about AIDS, Angels in America
. "It's one of the rare works of American art that had a direct political impact. And it's still relevant today for many, many reasons, including the silence still surrounding the world pandemic of AIDS."The Normal Heart
is so undeniably important - 36 million people have died of HIV so far - that it seems incredible nobody ever managed to film it. One who was incredulous is Ryan Murphy, the writer-director-producer best known for creating Nip/Tuck, Glee
, and American Horror Story
. "I grew up loving the play, he says, "and I remember thinking, Why has this movie not been made?
And so he made it.
On May 25, nearly three decades after The Normal Heart
premiered at Joseph Papp's Public Theater in a production directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, HBO will air Murphy's screen adaptation, which stars Mark Ruffalo, Jim Parsons, Taylor Kitsch, Matt Bomer, and Julia Roberts. Scripted by Kramer, the story carries us from the sun-drenched pleasures of gay parties on Fire Island in the early eighties into the pitch-black of the nascent AIDS epidemic, with its young bodies being devoured by lesions from a virus made all the more terrifying because nobody could explain it. As our heroes - and Robert's feisty doctor - try to halt its spread, the film bristles with still-fascinating arguments about how to change the world: Is it more effective to work within the system or confront authority? And it captures the irony in the idea that just at the moment when gay men felt liberated to have sex as they chose, they were being asked to curtail it - or die.( Collapse )Source