"Historically, there seems to have been a shift where gay men learned to love each other in a different way, to take care of each other," he said.
In "The Normal Heart" he plays Felix, who is Weeks' dying lover. When he finds out he's infected, there's still confusion about how the disease is spread or whether he could infect his partner.
"Can we kiss?" Felix asks his doctor.
"I don't know," she says back.
The story also looked ahead to the prospect of gay marriage at a time when that wasn't even on the table, Breen said. Still, Kramer argues for bigger goals and equal rights to help fight the AIDS crisis.
While the District of Columbia is among a handful of states that have since legalized same-sex marriage, "The Normal Heart" is a timely story for Washington. The capital remains a city with one of the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates.
Kramer and the show's producers have invited President Barack Obama and the first lady to see the play at Arena Stage.
"Now that he's come out for gay marriage, he doesn't lose any political capital by coming to see this," the 76-year-old writer and activist said. "He might even gain a little more."
The theater is displaying sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in its lobby with a small exhibit on AIDS history from the Smithsonian. It's also hosting community discussions with experts and health professionals each Sunday. And as audiences depart the theater after the show, a letter from Kramer is handed out, detailing the ongoing epidemic.
Broadway producer Daryl Roth shepherded the production to Washington after its award-winning Broadway run when she heard of the world AIDS conference. Roth said she knew it would be the "perfect time" for theater that holds a mirror up to society with a story that still resonates.
"There are a lot of people that — here's a big news flash — that are still homophobic," she said. "And you know, people came to see this play, and I know minds were changed."
Arena Stage: http://www.arenastage.org/
Follow Brett Zongker on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DCArtBeat
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.