Tuesday, October 19, 2010

There's Always a Plague of One Kind or Another

I was exceptionally lucky to get invited to see a one night only 25th anniversary reading of Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart last night. I'd never read the play or seen it staged before and even though this was just a reading the power of the material - the anger, the sadness, and all of the humor - just roared right off the stage. The NYT has a review of the show which sums up my reaction pretty thoroughly. If they were to do a full-on production I would be there opening week.

If I were gonna pick a stand-out I'd have to say that I was most wowed by Michael Stuhlbarg, already on my love list because of his awesome work in the Coens' A Simple Man - even with all the actors standing there holding their scripts in their hands on a stage bare except for some chairs and a gurney his character felt fully envisioned. I kept feeling my eyes drift to see what he'd be doing in a scene even when he wasn't the one talking - which is a big feat considering Patrick Wilson was sauntering around on stage in a suit tailored to perfection - and he never disappointed. He'd be sitting on the floor picking at his shirt entirely in character. Not that he was stealing the scenes, or showboating - he just was, and he was great. And in a play rife with emotional lashing-outs it was his breakdown in the center of the piece that affected me the most. Not that anybody else was slacking; everyone was terrific. And Patrick Wilson wasn't just a well-tailored suit - his speech about the way his dead lover's death goes down was heartrending. It reminded me that Wilson's much more than the sum of his (admittedly greatly appreciated) nudities.

I'm excited especially now by the news then that the movie version seems to be ramping up, and Mark Ruffalo is an interesting choice for Ned. I think Ruffalo's a terrific actor, don't get me wrong, I'm just curious how he'll wind his relaxed nature up to the heights of where Ned's excitable righteousness takes him. I'm less excited about Ryan Murphy's ass in the director's chair - Running With Scissors was so so awful - but if he can get the thing made more power to him. It's been languishing for too long. And while it read as a time capsule in certain respects there are all kinds of echoes into today - the health care system, gay marriage, and it's not like AIDS has gone away - that need to echo louder. We're sadly still fighting most of these fights today.

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