‘Heart’-warming return

Times takes knocks, but play is well-received

NEW YORK — Larry Kramer‘s AIDS drama “The Normal Heart” has returned home to the Public Theater, where it opened in 1985. At the B-Bar & Grill party April 21, the playwright held court behind a table stacked with pizza, cheeseballs and crudites. He thought back 19 years, but didn’t remember much about the very first opening night.

“I’m more a wreck now than I was then,” he said. “It all depends on the Times review.”

This is a case of biting the hand that reviews you. Only Ed Koch takes more hits than the Gray Old Lady in Kramer’s play.

Although opening night inspired one of this season’s few truly hand-pounding standing ovations, the big emotional curtain call came the previous week when Gay Men’s Health Crisis bought out the theater for a benefit performance.

As “The Normal Heart” makes clear, Kramer founded the org in the early 1980s, then got thrown out. At the benefit perf, GMHC called the scribe to the stage to hand him a plaque.

Even better, the Shuberts’ Gerald Schoenfeld was in the audience that night.

“And he just adored it,” said Kramer, his sights clearly set on a Broadway transfer.

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