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'The Normal Heart' Opens at Ensemble This Weekend

The play chronicles the rise of HIV/AIDS in New York City in the early '80s.

Ensemble Theatre's artistic director Celeste Cosentino says she wants to stay true to the theater's original mission.

Her mother, Lucia Colombi, founded the Cleveland Heights theater 33 years ago, and primarily produced American classics in the early years.

Cosentino said her mother started the theater a year after she was born, and she refers to it as a sibling.

The theater's first play of the season, "The Normal Heart," opens tonight, and first premiered nearly 30 years ago.

The play, written by Larry Kramer and directed by Sarah May, chronicles the rise of HIV/AIDS in New York City in the early '80s. The show originally premiered off-Broadway in 1985, and won a Tony in 2011 for best revival of a play.

"The story of a city in denial, 'The Normal Heart' unfolds like a real-life political thriller—as a tight-knit group of friends refuses to let doctors, politicians and the press bury the truth of an unspoken epidemic behind a wall of silence," the theater wrote in a press release about the play. "A quarter-century after it was written, this outrageous, unflinching, and totally unforgettable look at the sexual politics of New York during the AIDS crisis remains one of the theatre’s most powerful evenings ever."

The show runs through Oct. 21 and some performances will include panel discussions and talkbacks with local doctors and organizations such as The Cleveland Clinic and the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland.

"Theater is a dialogue. You're having a dialogue with the audience rather than pure entertainment. (My mother) picked plays that really talked about what was going on in the world around her," Cosentino said. "We want to try and talk about what it means to be human, and pull plays that talk about the human spirit."

The Normal Heart. Ensemble Theatre, 2843 Washington Blvd. (in the former Coventry School.) Sept. 28 through Oct. 21. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. Talkbacks Sept. 30, Oct. 5, Oct. 15 and Oct. 19. Tickets $10 to $20. 

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