Larry Kramer’s landmark play, The Normal Heart, chronicles major events in the early years of the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) epidemic in New York City. The play’s 1985 production at the Public Theatre riveted the attention of diverse audiences to the devastation of the new disease. As an instrument of political rhetoric and as a classically structured drama, The Normal Heart has power to move emotions and change minds.
In the summer of 1981, Ned Weeks visits Dr. Emma Brookner, who is treating virtually all the gay men in New York afflicted with rare, immune system-related diseases. Brookner has heard of Ned—and his “big mouth.” She is looking for a gay man to lead in this new crisis; she urges him to express his anger toward those in power who are apathetic and to convince gay men to stop engaging in sexual activity. She believes the disease is spread through sex.
Ned begins to act, exploring the failure of The New York Times to cover the epidemic adequately. In so doing, he meets a gay reporter, Felix Turner, to whom he is immediately attracted. A key relationship in the play is between Ned and his brother Ben, a lawyer. Although Ned is impatient with his brother’s reluctance to help the organization Ned has formed in response to the epidemic, it is clear that what Ned wants most from Ben is unconditional acceptance and love.
As Ned and Felix grow closer, Ned’s organization...
(The entire section is 436 words.)