"I've been wanting to direct this show for years," says The Normal Heart co-director Carl Gonzales, referring to Larry Kramer's acclaimed 1985 drama about the AIDS crisis. "And then we had a friend who passed away from pneumonia and we didn't know that it was partly due to the HIV/AIDS virus."
"He had a diagnosis and because of stigma ... he didn't seek out treatment," adds his co-director (and wife) Lacey Gonzales.
That personal connection to the subject matter made The Normal Heart seem even more urgent and timely, so when the Gonzaleses were offered up a slot in the City Theatre production schedule, they jumped at the chance to bring the play back to the Austin stage. "It's made our drive really powerful," Carl says, "but it's also been really hard."
"It's heavy," says Lacey. "[Kramer] really gets in there and he doesn't shy away from how it really was." While the piece is heavy and deals with important issues in an informative way, Lacey is quick to point out that it's not just a series of lectures, but a well-crafted play.
"It is entertaining ... it's very powerful and has a lot of moving performances," she says.
The directors can't praise their cast enough. "We were nervous going in because we knew this was a beast of a show, and we needed some really, really good actors," says Lacey. "And we were so fortunate to have some amazing people come out to auditions."