This review was originally published in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad
It's time for that other most-famous AIDS play to have its moment in the television sun. Larry Kramer's "THE NORMAL HEART," arrived Off Broadway in 1985, a half decade or so before Tony Kushner's long since canonized "Angels in America," but it's taken a longer and more circuitous route to mainstream fame. It's HBO to the rescue again with a television adaptation, which, as with the fate of Angels, came on the heels of a long gestating but never-meant-to-be movie version. (Barbra Streisand tried for years to mount a film version of The Normal Heart giving herself the plum role of Emma Brookner a.k.a. 'Doctor Death')
Though it rarely does Kramer's 'Heart' any favors to compare it to the later masterwork, it's hard not to. They're linked in time structure, setting, historical record, and now in HBO incarnations. Think of The Normal Heart as Angels in America's angrier cruder earth-bound cousin. It doesn't bother with symbolism, poetry or spirituality - whether that's through lack of ability, desire, or bilious rejection of the escapist side of the fantastical who can say? Instead, it finds its power in fragile bodies and righteous rage in the face of mundane defeats and every day humiliations.
Which is why it's a little surprising at first to begin with the elemental: the open air, the sun and a glide over the water (supertitle: "1981") as we head to Fire Island...