Character Descriptions

THE NORMAL HEART - Character Descriptions

Ned Weeks (40s)a writer and activist who becomes obsessed with the AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) epidemic in its early stages and founds an organization to help gay men who have the disease. Angry, aggressive, and relentless in his tactics, Ned is criticized by most characters in the play, especially for his view that homosexuals should refrain from having sex until a cure is found for AIDS. In spite of his offensive behavior, Ned is the hero of the play. It is clear that he is upset by the deaths of young, gay men and that he is committed to warning those who have not yet been infected, no matter how much he must fight or what price he must pay. While trying to save the world from itself, he confronts the personal toll of AIDS when his lover dies of the disease.

Ben Weeks (late 30s/mid40s)Ned’s straight brother, a partner in a prestigious New York City law firm. Ned needs Ben’s help in setting up the organization for gay men, support Ben is reluctant to give because he does not want his name or the name of his firm associated with homosexual causes. When Ben refuses to be on the organization’s board of directors, Ned vows not to speak to him until Ben can accept him as his “healthy equal.” The brothers remain estranged until Felix’s death at the end of the play.

Emma Brookner (mid 30s to early 40s)a physician who has devoted her practice to helping gay men infected with the virus eventually identified as AIDS. Besides being a pioneer in the treatment of AIDS, Emma spearheads early efforts to conduct research on the disease, although the medical establishment does little to support her efforts. Strong, angry, and relentless, Emma tries to reach the gay community, through Ned and others, to warn gay men about the disease and to urge them to stop having sex. She treats Felix, Ned’s AIDS-infected lover, and marries Ned and Felix in her hospital.

Bruce Niles (40s)Ned’s antithesis. Although both Ned and Bruce are on the board of directors of the gay men’s organization, they have very different ideas about how the organization should respond to the AIDS epidemic. Bruce, as opposed to Ned, is conservative in his approach and is apolitical. Although the two fight about almost everything pertaining to the organization and although Bruce eventually kicks Ned out of the organization, they are also friends (at times), and Ned supports Bruce when his lovers die of AIDS. Ironically, Ned is romantically attracted to Bruce at the beginning of the play. Bruce is more self-conscious about his homosexuality than any other character in the play.

Felix Turner (30s)a fashion reporter forThe New York Timesbecomes Ned’s lover. At the end of the play, he dies from AIDS, after he and Ned are married.

Tommy Boatwright (mid 20 to early 30)one of the younger volunteers with the organization for gay men. Hardworking, enthusiastic, and innovative, Tommy also is diplomatic, often trying to solve conflicts between Ned and the other members of the organization. If anyone provides comic relief in the play, it is Tommy, whose mannerisms and expressions are overtly gay. He is romantically interested in Ned until Felix and Ned begin dating.

Eight additional roles for patients, examining doctor, orderlies.  Some roles will be doubled.

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