It was just a coincidence that the Arena Stage run of “The Normal Heart,” Larry Kramer’s play about the early years of the AIDS crisis among gay New Yorkers, overlaps with this week’s International AIDS Conference in Washington. But the folks there made use of the lucky timing by putting on a special performance Monday night to benefit the theater and the Washington AIDS Partnership.
“We are very, very lucky that this coincided, it’s a privilege actually,” actress Patricia Wettig told Yeas & Nays. Wettig, who plays physician Emma Brookner (and is also known for her work on ABC’s “Brothers & Sisters”) and Patrick Breen, who plays gay activist Ned Weeks, explained that most of the cast and crew have been personally touched by the disease. “The thing that the production did so beautifully, that helped us a lot, was that they asked us who we lost to the disease, to AIDS, and those names were projected in the last frame,” Breen said. Throughout the play the names of the deceased were hauntingly shown during scene changes, culminating with the play’s heartbreaking ending.
Though the night wasn’t all sad. It concluded with a ’80s themed party, where we caught several cast members — including Wettig and Breen — busting loose on the dance floor.