Is Serious Drama Dying?
John Heilprin details, in the Observer, the downfall of the much-raved-about revival of The Normal Heart at the Public in New York.
Some of the highlights...
"It’s sobering to report that the critics who enthusiastically supported The Normal Heart—myself among them—had little or no influence. A spot check of all the critics of the play (newspapers, magazines, dot-com and radio) reveals this: Out of 42 reviews, seven were negative, 21 were positive and 14 were raves.
Among the thumbs-up were influential outlets as varied as The New York Times (a "gale force," “benchmark drama”—Ben Brantley) and Variety (“a defining work of theater,” “blisters with conviction and heart”—Charles Isherwood). John Simon of New York magazine—renowned for not being too easily pleased—concluded his rave review: “In the end you will hear fellow theatergoers weeping all around you, the sound muffled only by that of your own cathartic sobbing.”
Larry Kramer said, "Why didn’t the gays go to Normal Heart? I’ll tell you: They’re going to see Hugh Jackman instead."
When The Normal Heart opened at the Joseph Papp Public Theater in 1985, it ran for 10 months and attracted a crossover audience for what became the longest-running production in the Public’s history.
The current production played in the Public’s Anspacher, an intimate space with only 275 seats. But no performance ever sold out. In fact, box-office sales—including discounted tickets—were never higher than 58 percent, and in the final two weeks they were disastrously lower.