That Time Dr. Fauci Was a Character in an Obie Award Winning Play
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 and one of the lead members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force has been a star of the White House press conferences and for many has upstaged the president which has allegedly brought a jealous reaction from Trump. Now, when he’s not at the briefing his absence is likely to make as much news as anything the administration might say. Would it surprise you to know that he is portrayed in an Obie award winning play by the gay activist playwright Larry Kramer?
Dr. Fauci was initially a target of Kramer’s righteous rage during the AIDS crisis and vilified by the founder of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT-UP and playwright of “The Normal Heart” as an “incompetent idiot” for moving too slowly and not prioritizing the disease as a plague. Kramer contracted AIDS in 1988 and Dr. Fauci got him into a life-saving experimental drug trial which is portrayed in a companion play “The Destiny of Me” set at the National Institute of Health. The semi-autobiographical play premiered at the now shuttered Circle Repertory Theatre starring Jonathan Hadary and John Cameron Mitchell as Kramer through his life (here named Ned and Alexander) and Bruce McCarty as Dr. Tony Della Vida, the pseudonymously named character based on Fauci.
The play has disturbing resonance as we enter the fourth week of stay at home isolation. Kramer’s alter-ego Ned says in the play “When I started yelling there were 41 cases of a mysterious disease. Now they’re talking about 150 million. And it’s still mysterious. And the mystery isn’t why they don’t know anything, it’s why they don’t want to know anything.” It is not so hard to project these words into Dr. Fauci’s head as he face-palms on the White House podium.
The two have long since become friends and while Kramer works on a play about COVID-19 titled “An Army of Lovers Must Not Die” from his Greenwich Village isolation, he received a message from Dr. Fauci with a prescription of one line “Hunker down.”
An excerpt from “The Destiny of Me”:
Tony: You’ve got some crazy gay newspaper up in New York that claims I’m not even studying the right virus. They call me Public Enemy Number One. Why aren’t you guys proud of me? If I’m not in my lab, I’m testifying, lobbying, pressuring, I’m on TV ten times a week, I fly to conferences all over the world, I churn out papers for the journals, I supervise hundreds of scientists, I dole out research grants like I’m Santa Claus-what more do you want?
Ned: A cure.
Tony: I’m not a magician.
Ned: Now’s not the time to tell me. There’s no end in sight. That’s why they hate you. You tell every reporter you have enough money. That’s why they hate you. You tell congress you have everything you need. That’s why thay hate you. You say more has been learned about this disease than any disease in the history of disease. That’s why they hate you. You say the President cares. That’s why they hate you.
Tony: He does care! He tells me all the time how much he cares!
Ned: You asked me. I told you. You’re the one in charge and you’re an apologist for your boss. That’s why they…
Tony: If I weren’t, do you think I’d get anything! You don’t understand the realities of this town.