Thursday, May 26, 2011
Tonight, I cried over spilled milk. Thrown milk, really. And after that milk was splashed across the floor, I didn’t stop crying until I was standing on line for the bathroom.
Allow me to present a scenario to you: There is a play on Broadway. It is about the founding of GMHC and the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in America. When presented with this scenario, I, in my infinite wisdom, decided that I should probably go to this play by myself. As in, not in the company of anybody that I call friends or family. Here’s why that was incredibly faulty logic: there was no one to peel me from my seat at the end and no one to carry my limp, broken, cried-out body home.
The Normal Heart, originally produced in 1985 at the Public Theater in New York City, is the story of Ned Weeks (based largely on Larry Kramer, the playwright), a gay man in NYC who wants someone to pay attention to the fact that all of his friends are dying. He wants the Times to write about it, he wants the mayor (Koch, remember him?) to help him, he wants his brother to lend his lofty lawyer name to the cause, and he wants his friends who are still alive to come out of the closet and fight.
Ned, played with tenderness and fragility by Joe Mantello, is a loud, neurotic, fiercely opinionated Jewish man with a volcanic temper that works against him, as hard as he fights to make it work for him. He loves a good argument, as well as a bad one. Weakness is unforgivable in his eyes, but his weaknesses are all too visible to the audience.
Ellen Barkin, my beautiful Ellen Barkin, makes her Broadway debut as Dr. Emma Brookner, a Polio-stricken wheelchair-bound doctor who seeks desperately for answers. She diagnoses many many men with an unnamed disease, a cureless disease, and helplessly watches them die. During the second act, she has a scene that is so powerful and stunning, so full of anger and pain, I stopped breathing. She unleashes the fury of Hell at a government goon, spewing venom at the President (Reagan, who, let’s recall, is NOT actually the saint he’s been made to look like recently), and all the while, is unable to use her whole body AND is facing straight at the audience. Balls, ladies and gentlemen. Balls.
The cast here is so good that it’s almost silly, as well as being pretty surprising. Jim Parsons, of The Big Bang Theory (CBS sitcom) fame, is a highlight as a supporting character, Jimmy Boatwright, a self-proclaimed Southern bitch and quiet activist. Lee Pace, from Pushing Daisies (super fun series, Netflix) is Bruce, a handsome banker who remains in the closet but does his damndest to get the message out. His last big speech is outrageous, and elicited gasps from the audience. And John Benjamin Hickey, who I know hardly at all, is brilliant as Felix, Ned’s closeted partner, who one day finds a purple bruise on his foot.
Though the play was written in and was about the 1980’s, there is so much in it that rings true now. Though the virus has been isolated and there are now medications to slow the effects, there is still no cure. There are still people who oppose handing out condoms or educating children and adults about the disease and prevention. There are now tens of millions of people living with HIV and AIDS across the world. There is still not enough funding, there are not enough doctors, and not enough help.
Why did I cry at this show? Why did so many others? Was it because I hate death? Because the prospect of losing love in such a manner is horrifying to me? Because though I was very young at the time, I remember that my mother’s friends kept dying? If you do not get a chance to see this amazing show, which is open until July 10th, buy the book. I am out of a job right now, but was determined to see this play any way I could. I came out of it with a fire in my belly. It awoke something in me that I didn’t realize I was missing.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Holy cow. Where to even begin?? It is SO gratifying to watch something with so many brains, so much talent, enormous balls, and no stick-thin women.
Granted, I have only watched the very first episode so far, but I have zero doubt that I will not come down from this TV high until the whole thing’s over.
Here in the USA, we have crime shows up the wazoo. What we don’t have are crime shows which, in their very first episode, have pro-lifers as the most wanted people in town. But that is episode one of MI-5, the story of a few agents in the British Security Service.
Shot, and set, in 2002, this show begins firmly in a post-9/11 world. Muslim radicals are the big bad guys. However, there are also the pro-lifers to worry about. A crazy Florida lady has slipped past the authorities and traveled to England to continue the work that her husband began. Twenty bombs have been set loose in England, all to kill doctors who perform abortions. So now MI-5 has the unpleasant task of finding them.
I said it has talent: Matthew Macfadyen (Pride and Prejudice, Incendiary, Death at a Funeral) plays Tom, a lead agent, but his girlfriend knows him as Matthew…awkward. Keeley Hawes (Death at a Funeral, ShakepeaRE-told, and married to Macfadyen) and her obscene cheekbones plays Zoe, the resident beautiful agent. Americans play the aggressive assholes. Noted.
To see a show about a nut-balls American made by Brits is humbling, to say the least. That they share my (pardon the expression) values (sorry, I couldn’t think of another way) is not the important part. The important part is that watching this confirmed for me just how ridiculous these fundamentalists really are. Equating abortion to shooting children in a schoolyard? Killing people in the name of protecting life? Absurd. The big lesson here, that people forget too often, is that flying planes into buildings is not the only way that terrorism works.