We have no doubt all seen Zoom staged readings at some point in this Covid year, and the results can be terrific or terrifying. There is a lot that can go wrong. But when the cast is united and inspired, even if they only had one rehearsal, no miscues can get in the way of a thrilling evening. Such was the case with the all-star reading of THE NORMAL HEART by Larry Kramer, a benefit for the ONE Archives Foundation.
For the first time, Kramer’s alter ego Ned Weeks and his fictional lover Felix were played by actors of color – in this case Sterling K. Brown from 'This is Us', and Jeremy Pope from 'Choir Boy'. Other featured players included Laverne Cox, Jake Borelli, and Jay Hayden, and the wattage from this committed group, assemble by director Paris Barclay, was outstanding.
THE NORMAL HEART is a tough text, with heart wrenching scenes between Ned and Felix, shuffled into a stack of increasing serious scenes involving Kramer’s efforts to get press coverage and money for the gay community so devastated by AIDS. The political scenes can sometimes bog the production down, but in this case, without taking time for props or scene changes, the reading flew by. Fans of 'This Is' Us know that Sterling can become emotional in an instant, and he was outstanding in his vulnerability, anger, and great sense of humor. His scenes with Pope were outstanding.
At the talk back afterwards, Sterling was asked if he would consider doing a full production of TNH with a cast of BIPOC, and while he did not knock the idea, he made clear his belief that casting like this works best when there is a purpose and a cause, and he gave Barclay great praise for distilling that sense in this terrific ensemble.
THE NORMAL HEART was seen by over 1100 people. And if you would like to support the cause of this great team of artists, go to https://www.onearchives.org/.