Published on February 26th, 2016 | by Thomas Ritchie0
‘Normal Heart’ recounts dark days in early fight against AIDS
A dark period in the lives of gay Americans is depicted in a play onstage now at Shot in the Dark Productions.
“The Normal Heart” is a largely autobiographical play by Larry Kramer, and focuses on the rise of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City between 1981 and 1984, as seen through the eyes of writer and activist Ned Weeks.
Weeks struggles to pull together an organization focused on raising awareness about the fact that an unidentified disease is killing off an oddly specific group of people: gay men largely in New York City.
He calls on his brother to help fund the organization, and at the same time, falls in love, all leading to escalating struggles in his life of the prominent and outspoken homosexual.
The increasing death toll of gay men in New York raises the unknown illness, now believed to be caused by a virus, to the status of an epidemic, though the press remains largely silent on the issue.
For Shot in the Dark’s Artistic Producer Joey Hartshorn, the show is an important one. “I selected the show because like so many things in our history, have the tendency to be quickly forgotten or put on a back burner,” she said. “The sickness that was dubbed the “Gay Cancer”….how political officials did little or nothing to address the seriousness of the disease.”
MIchael Skaff is directing the show, which runs through March 7.
Critics lauded the show for its intense emotion, said Hartshorn, who also is a regular actor and director at the theatre. “The playwright starts off angry, soon gets furious and then skyrockets into sheer rage,” wrote Frank Rich of The New York Times. “Although Mr. Kramer’s theatrical talents are not always as highly developed as his conscience, there can be little doubt that The Normal Heart is the most outspoken play around.”
“As Artistic Producer and chair of the play selection committee, I felt the urgent need to have this show done at Shot in the Dark. In the midwest we often miss things and are not directly affected by certain mainstream situations, but Sioux City is not a stranger to AIDS/HIV, but it is a well hidden secret here.”