Actor’s Actors, Inc.’s The Necessary Theatre is staging the Asian premiere of the Tony Award-winning play The Normal Heart, an intense drama about the struggle of an openly gay writer and activist to awaken the world to the emerging AIDS problem during the early 1980s in New York City. The production’s Manila run opens on July 3, Friday, 8 p.m. with succeeding limited performances on July 4 (Saturday), 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and July 5 (Sunday), 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City.
Written by American playwright, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) activist, and Gay Men’s Health Crisis founder Larry Kramer, The Normal Heart follows advocate Ned Weeks as he wages a lonely fight against the indifference of the city administration, the media, doctors and other private individuals, especially from the gay community, to the early rise of the AIDS outbreak. The largely autobiographical play puts a human face to the crisis, which is often mired in statistics, as Ned also attempts to confront the issue personally.
Bart Guingona, who directs the local adaptation of the searing drama that was produced to acclaim in New York, London and Los Angeles, also essays the role of the very intense Ned. Richard Cunanan plays Ned’s brother Ben, a successful and conservative lawyer whom Ned asks help from for funding his advocacy group. Although Ben loves his brother, he cannot seem to control his apparent homophobia from affecting his attitude toward Ned’s efforts.
Topper Fabregas portrays the role of Felix, the handsome newspaper reporter whom Ned falls in love and begins a relationship with. TJ Trinidad plays Bruce, the charming and also closeted banker whom gay activists prefer over Ned to lead them that time. Tensions arise when Ned’s confrontational and vociferous approach comes in conflict with Bruce’s calm and cautious ways. Yet, the two must overcome their differences to achieve a common goal.
Roselyn Perez essays the role of Emma, the independent physician and researcher who is considered the most experienced authority about the strange new epidemic. An opinionated doctor and a fighter at the same time, she laments the lack of medical knowledge on the mysterious virus. The doctor prescribes abstinence from sex, pending the findings on how the disease is spread.
Red Concepcion is the funny and outrageous Southern boy Tommy, who is all the way out of the closet. Nor Domingo plays Mickey, the Jewish victim with a sense of humor. Jef Flores takes on multiple roles such as Craig, Grady and the City Hall representative Hiram Keebler.
Guingona leads the artistic team with set designers Baby Imperial and Coco Anne, projectionist Mark Philipp Espina, and graphic designer Don Taduran. Producer Dodo Lim, production manager Mariko Yasuda, and stage manager Ronah Rostata comprise the production group. Taal Vista Hotel co-presents the play with AAI’s The Necessary Theatre.
Starting as an off-Broadway production, The Normal Heart had the gay community divided when it was first performed at The Public Theater in New York City in April 21, 1985, eventually winning the Dramatists Guild Marton Award, City Lights Award, Sarah Siddons Award for the best play of the year, and a nomination for an Olivier Award.
Kramer’s advocacy piece was later named one of the 100 greatest plays of the 20th century by the Royal National Theatre in 2000. It was then revived in Los Angeles and London and again off-Broadway in 2004. The play’s 2011 revival and Broadway debut, which opened in April 27 at NYC’s John Golden Theatre, got rave reviews and led to the production garnering the Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Play, Best Featured Actress for Ellen Barkin, and Best Featured Actor for John Benjamin Hickey; Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Revival of a Play, Outstanding Director of a Play, and Outstanding Ensemble; Drama League Award for Distinguished Revival of a Play; and Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Revival.
The Normal Heart is produced with special arrangement from Samuel French. Ticket prices are at P1,500 orchestra center, P1,000 orchestra side and loge, and P500 balcony. For ticket inquiries, contact AAI’s TNT at 215-0788 or 0917-5378313 or call TicketWorld at 891-9999.