If there is one health scare that has been dominating the news this year, without a doubt, it is Ebola and its effect on the United States. While we should never undermind the seriousness of the Ebola virus, it is very important for us to remember that AIDS, which is actually a relative of Ebola, has been in the U.S. for far longer and has killed far more people. It is facts like this that make Mercer County Community College’s production of The Normal Heart quite relevant to current events.
The Normal Heart is a riveting, passionate look at the very beginning of the AIDS crisis in the U.S. – before anyone even knew what it was. In addition to this, it is also an autobiographical story of the show’s playwright and activist, Larry Kramer.
The Normal Heart revolves around a man named Ned, who is alarmed that his friends are starting to die more quickly than they should, and with the same symptoms. He meets a doctor, Emma Brookner, who is in the middle of the dying men, and is desperate to figure out what is going on. Together, they try to get the word about the virus out to the wider gay community – but are met with little to no results.
What makes The Normal Heart so powerful is the fact that it isn’t just a background about the history of AIDS. Yes, the history is there, but it is also a brutally honest look at how so many people in America were ignoring the spread of this vicious disease – all for different reasons. This show exploits the point that nobody can escape the blame for this epidemic that is almost considered normal today. It does not matter whether you are gay, or straight, religious, or political – there is no angle of the disease that is left un-examined and nobody gets off the hook.
This production is also ambitious because the tough emotional demands each actor must face in every rehearsal and performance. Attracting the right cast of performers for this production is a difficult task, especially given the show’s circumstances and subject matter – but producer Jody Person and director Robert A. Terrano did it. Every actor in this production fully commits to their roles with an intense sense of urgency and emotion that you rarely get to see on a New Jersey stage.
The show’s leads Ned and Emma will feature four actors in this production, with each actor alternating performances. The role of Ned will be alternated between Jonathan Polanco and Nicholas Andrejco, and the role of Emma will be alternated between Mariah King and Michaelyn Haley.
In addition to those four, the rest of cast features Charles Acuna, Jovan Griffin, Jonathan Cintron, Jorge Martinez, Madison Kotnarowski, Tristan Takacs, and Dan Johnson.
The show is presented through the MCCC Academic Theater, Dance & Entertainment Technology Programs. The production is produced by Jody Person and directed by Robert A. Terrano, with costume and set designs by Kate Pinner, lighting design by Starrika McCloud, sound design by Evan Paine and Eric Collins, and stage management by Amanda Suchil.
The creative team is rounded out by Chris Nielson (light board operator), Megan Haltmeier (assistant stage management), Koren Zander (make-up design), Sally Page (accent coach), and Ken Boardman, Shelley Gail Weiss Lightman, Andrew Conrad, and the Hyacinth Foundation as consultants.
The Normal Heart is extremely important to theatrical audiences and our American ideology. It is a perfect mix of science, health, politics, fear, guilt, and most importantly, human relationships. If you are one that is interested in human rights, American history, social justice, love, and mystery, then this is definitely a production that you do not want to miss.
The Normal Heart opens December 5, 2014 and runs through Sunday, December 7, 2014 inside The Studio Theatre at Mercer County Community College.
Friday’s performance begins at 8pm, Saturday features a 2pm matinee and an 8pm evening performance, and the show will close on Sunday with a 2pm matinee.
Tickets are currently on sale and can be purchased online by CLICKING HERE. Limited seating is available for this special engagement, so it is highly recommended that you purchase your tickets ASAP.
Written by Kyrus Keenan Westcott
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