Kramer, Producers Weigh Normal Heart Revival's Commercial Prospects

News   Kramer, Producers Weigh Normal Heart Revival's Commercial Prospects The Worth Street Theatre Company's revival of The Normal Heart, which opened April 21 to largely admiring reviews, may have a commercial future following its run at the Public Theater's Anspacher space.
Joanna Gleason and Raul Esparza in The Normal Heart
Joanna Gleason and Raul Esparza in The Normal Heart Photo by Carol Rosegg

Kramer told Playbill On-Line that a group of producers headed by Hal Luftig are attached to the production and are eager to see it transfer, possibly to Broadway.

"Hal Luftig wants to move it," Kramer said. "He's one of the investors in this production. Hal raised the money among six people, all of whom are anxious to move it if it gets good reviews. I would like to get it on Broadway before I die. I think that's what they want to do, because there's no money in doing it Off-Broadway.

Kramer added that Shubert Organization chairman Gerald Schoenfeld recently took in the play, which critics said was as fresh and urgent as it was in its debut 19 years ago. "He was there the other night and he just adored it."

The David Esbjornson-directed revival had its first preview at the Public Theater on April 9. This mounting marks the landmark drama's first major New York revival.

The cast includes stars Raul Esparza, as activist Ned Weeks, and Joanna Gleason, in the choice role of fiery, wheelchair-bound Dr. Emma Brookner. Also in the cast are Fred Berman as health columnist Mickey Marcus, Richard Bekins as Ned's lawyer brother Ben, McCaleb Burnett as the southerner Tommy, Mark Dobies as closeted bank executive Bruce Niles, Jay Russell as an unfeeling City Hall functionary, Billy Warlock as Ned's lover Felix and Paul Whitthorne in a variety of roles. The Public Theater is where The Normal Heart was first produced in 1985. The drama was one of the first plays about the emergence of AIDS, and the anger, frustration and fear surrounding it. The action of the play takes place between July 1981 and May 1984, making it a period piece. The disease is now an international epidemic. The work ran a year at The Public after its debut.

The lack of response by politicians in Washington and New York City (notably former NYC Mayor Ed Koch) the medical profession and the media—particularly The New York Times—is addressed in the angry, visceral drama about Ned Weeks. Weeks is based on Kramer himself (who founded the Gay Men's Health Crisis) and his circle of friends. Writer and AIDS activist Kramer told Variety that if people screamed as much about AIDS in its early years as they are about the flu-like SARS today, "It is a plague that never need have happened."

Worth Street currently has one commercial production running, The Moonlight Room, which recently transfered to midtown's Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row after a successful run at downtown's Tribeca Playhouse.