Originally an off-Broadway hit by David Drake, the Outlander star John Bell is a fitting star for the semi-autobiographical one-man show The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me. The narrative follows the life of a young gay man from childhood to adulthood in 1980s New York during the AIDS epidemic. The performer invites the audience to follow his adventures, thoughts, prayers and more through a series of nine stories in various settings.
The format of the show allows for Bell to transform into an immersive reminiscing storyteller, as he saunters, prances and bounces around the stage. All in all, Bell's performance is to be applauded. He is quirky, passionate and keeps the audience hooked throughout his journey of self-discovery to activism.
Many of the performer's pivotal moments in life are portrayed, including his first kiss, the move to New York and losing his lost ones. But the real turning point is when the unnamed star attends a performance of Larry Kramer's autobiographical play The Normal Heart. Why was this particular trip to the theatre life-changing? The on-stage kiss in The Normal Heart ignites his desire to fight against AIDS in a world that refused to address the crisis.
The most heartfelt moment of The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me was when the performer paid tributes to lives lost by AIDS by recalling each individual's story and picking out the smallest details - for instance, his old neighbour Gary, who brought him a baseball cap and a beach towel one time. The illumination of hundred-something candles surrounding the stage and beyond during this scene resembled a church-like setting, recalling earlier moments of prayers to God.
Though the performer's journey ends on a hopeful note, where he blissfully wishes upon the freedom to love whomever you want, the bitterness of tragedies of lost lives long remains both within the show and in real life.