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Larry Kramer (#110 of 5)

The Normal Heart on Broadway and Larry Kramer’s Legacy of Provocation

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<em>The Normal Heart</em> on Broadway and Larry Kramer’s Legacy of Provocation
<em>The Normal Heart</em> on Broadway and Larry Kramer’s Legacy of Provocation

Following showings of the new Broadway revival of The Normal Heart, audiences are handed a letter written by the play’s author, Larry Kramer. Titled “Please Know,” this epistle is, like the play itself, a provocation—a cutting indictment of the bureaucratic greed, political self-interest, and apathy within the gay community that continues to stand in the way of AIDS research and education. Why is The Normal Heart still relevant? Because Kramer, in his own words, has “never seen such wrongs as this plague, in all its guises, represents, and continues to say about us all.”

The subject of this remarkable play isn’t only AIDS and what it says about us all, from gays and our friends to politicos and Big Pharma; like Kramer’s brilliant Faggots, a hilarious, fiercely intelligent, stinging, heartbreaking account of gay life in post-Stonewall New York City, it’s also about Kramer’s brutalizing anger and how he righteously turned it into a call to action. The play’s lead, writer and activist Ned Weeks, is a stand-in for Kramer, just as the nameless organization he founds, and from which he’s removed on the eve of finally getting face time with the city’s mayor, is the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. He isn’t the play’s hero exactly, but his volcanic, justified rage is very much heroic, and it fuels the text’s most devastating, customarily articulate, takedowns of the people and organizations—Koch, Reagan, The New York Times, the Centers for Disease Control, even the very gays Faggots helped to liberate—that allowed AIDS to happen.