The stage is fairly empty, save for some scribbling on the white set – words, shadowy and illegible until the lights come up. Slowly, our eyes adjust and we make out some phrases published by the press in the early 1980s. The first one I can read is damning: “By our silence we have helped murder each other.” Before the first scene of The Normal Heart at Arena Stage comes to a halt, I’ve read the writing on the wall quite literally; and the writing tells me we’re doomed.
The Normal Heart – Arena Stage‘s nearly flawless production of the 2011 Tony-winning revival – moves with a thunderous pace and makes clear its own immediacy from its first scene to its haunting end. Never stopping to take a breath, the show instead devotes every moment to its characters and their dealings with the AIDS epidemic that began, largely unheeded, in 1981.