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Theatre, Music, etc.
EVENINGS OUT

 


October 5, 2012

Evenings Out

The dawn of AIDS, as seen by its most angry prophet

Larry Kramer is a prophet.†

In addition to being an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, novelist, playwright, public health advocate, and AIDS activist, Kramer witnessed firsthand as his friends began to fall around him at the beginning of the AIDS pandemic in the early 1980s. Living in New York City, energized by anger welling up in him as a result of apathy from the government and medical establishment as well as his own tribe, the LGBT community, he and a group of friends went on to do something about the growing AIDS crisis.†

This call to action is dramatized by Kramer in his Tony award-winning 1985 play The Normal Heart. Currently being staged at Ensemble Theater in Cleveland Heights, Kramer fictionalized elements of a timeline from 1981Ė1984, the post-sexual revolution, Reagan era.

Sure, itís a play filled to the brim with anger and social injustice, but itís also remarkable for the love story and compassion between two of the characters, the meaty roles for actors, and the challenge for a director to wrangle a story full of pathos, humor, and well, heart.

Kramer co-founded the Gay Menís Health Crisis, the worldís first AIDS service organization. He went on, after much dissatisfaction with GMHCís focus, to co-found the direct action group ACT UP. His eloquence as a writer and speaker helped put these organizations on the map, activating a generation of LGBT people to stand up for their human rights. When he didnít agree with his GMHC co-founders, he made it known, showing the strength of his convictions. He has continued to get his message out to the world, a prophet for sure.

For the Ensemble production, artistic director Celeste Cosentino has assembled some favorite Northeast Ohio talent: director Sarah May, known for her work on socially conscious plays (The Diary of Anne Frank, Six Degrees of Separation); actors Brian Zoldessy (as Kramer doppelganger Ned Weeks) and Derdriu Ring (as the doctor who urges Ned to tell gay men to stop having sex). The cast of eight men and one woman take the issues Kramer fast-pitches the audience, humanizing healthcare and marriage equality, which continue to boil over in the news in 2012.†

The Normal Heart, originally produced by legendary producer Joseph Papp at his off-Broadway Public Theatre in 1985, has the distinction of being the longest-running play in the Publicís history. A celebrated Broadway revival in 2011 garnered three Tony awards, including best play, and awards for two of its actors.

The play opened at Ensemble in late September, and continues through October 21.

Surrounding this production are post-show panel discussions with local physicians and organizations that are working to help address the issues that are brought up in this powerful and still very relevant script: Case Western Reserve University/University Hospitals AIDS Clinical Trials Unit, AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, WCPNís Around Noon program, Dare2Care, MetroHealth LGBT Pride Clinic, The Cleveland Clinic, and Nightsweats and TCells.† One of these panels was earlier in the run, and three more are scheduled for Friday, October 5; Sunday, October 14; and Friday, October 19.

Ensemble Theater is at 2843 Washington Blvd., the former Coventry School in Cleveland Heights. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 adults, $18 seniors, $10 students with valid ID, and may be purchased by calling 216-3212930, emailing tickets@ensemble-theatre.org, or online at www.ensemble-theatre.org.

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