Arena Stage set for The Normal Heart

May 3, 2012
Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater produces the 2011 Tony Award-winning production of Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart, directed by George C. Wolfe. Wolfe, who directed the show's sold-out Broadway engagement last season, mounts the professional D.C.-area premiere of this production, which features returning Broadway cast members Patrick Breen and Luke MacFarlane, among others. Presented by special arrangement with Daryl Roth, The Normal Heart runs June 8-July 29, 2012 in the Kreeger Theater.

"It is a real privilege for Arena Stage to bring Larry Kramer's work to his native Washington, which I saw in New York in a powerful and masterful production," shares Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith. "Under the guidance of veteran director George C. Wolfe, I believe this important play will inspire D.C. audiences by offering a deep look at a group of people who bravely fought the unknown of the beginning of the AIDS epidemic."

Breen (Broadway's Next Fall), who portrayed Mickey Marcus in the Broadway production, and MacFarlane (Scotty on ABC's Brothers & Sisters), who portrayed Craig Donner/Grady, return to take on new roles of Ned Weeks and Felix Turner respectively. Noted TV actress Patricia Wettig (Holly Harper on ABC's Brothers & Sisters, FOX's Prison Break) will play the paraplegic doctor Emma Brookner.

They are joined by Tom Berklund (Broadway's The Addams Family) as Craig Donner/Grady, Michael Berresse (Broadway's A Chorus Line) as Mickey Marcus, Christopher Dinolfo (Round House Theatre's Next Fall) as David, Christopher J. Hanke (Broadway's How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying) as Tommy Boatwright, Jon Levenson (understudy for Broadway's The Normal Heart) as Hiram Keebler/Examining Doctor, Nick Mennell (Broadway's A Free Man of Color) as Bruce Niles and John Procaccino (Lincoln Center Theater's Blood and Gifts) as Ben Weeks.

"Last year when we did the revival on Broadway it was thrilling to see critics rediscover what a great American play The Normal Heart is, and to see audiences, young and old, respond with such emotion and ferocity to the story," says Wolfe. "I'm so excited to be a part of bringing Larry's astonishing, funny, moving play to D.C. and to The Arena."

Fueled by love, anger, hope and pride, a circle of friends struggle to contain the mysterious disease ravaging New York's gay community in The Normal Heart. Dismissed by politicians, frustrated by doctors and fighting with each other, their differences could tear them apart-or change the world. Hailed by critics as "riveting" (Newsday) and "a great night at the theater" (New York Times), Kramer's masterwork is an outrageous and totally unforgettable look at sexual politics during the AIDS crisis and remains one of the theater's most powerful evenings ever.

"I consider Washington my hometown and it's been exceedingly upsetting to me that it's taken so long for The Normal Heart to be professionally produced there and doubly exciting that Arena is doing it at last," adds Kramer. "This is the most important city for this play. I hope Washington will respond to it as it finally joins with the many productions it's had all over the world."

"The Normal Heart has been a labor of love for me from the first Benefit reading, to our 2011 Broadway Tony Award-winning production, and now here at Arena Stage," contributes Roth. "Having this play in D.C. at this time was very important to me in order that The Normal Heart would be a part of the dialogue during AIDS 2012. It is a testament to Larry Kramer's 'righteous rage' 25 years ago when the play was written that allows us to again engage and touch those who remember, but most importantly, enlighten a younger generation learning their history and legacy."