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Angels in America at the Signature Theater

March 23, 2011

This week and last I had the pleasure of seeing the epic two part, seven hour play Angels in America by Tony Kushner. I caught Part One: Millennium Approaches and Part Two: Perestroika within a week of one another at The Signature Theater Company here in NYC. This has been one of my favorite plays since my first reading of it and measly attempts at playing Harper Pitt in high school. The Signature chose Tony Kushner as their featured author to celebrate their 20th season.

“Set in late 1985 and early 1986, as the first wave of the AIDS epidemic in America is escalating and Ronald Reagan has been elected to a second term in the White House, this Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play’s two parts, Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, bring together a young gay man with AIDS and his frightened, unfaithful lover; a closeted Mormon lawyer and his valium-addicted wife; the infamous New York lawyer Roy Cohn; an African-American male nurse; a Mormon housewife from Utah; and a steel-winged, prophecy-bearing angel; as well as the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg, an ancient rabbi, the world’s oldest living Bolshevik and a Reagan administration functionary, among many others — all played by a company of eight actors. The lives of these disparate characters intersect, intertwine, collide and are blown apart during a time of heartbreak, reaction and transformation. Ranging from earth to heaven, from the political to the intimate to the visionary and supernatural, Angels in America is an epic exploration of love, justice, identity and theology, of the difficulty, terror and necessity of change.”

I ended up seeing the replacement cast which included Adam Driver, Sofia Jean Gomez, Keira Keeley, Lynn McCollough and Michael Urie (Bill Heck, Frank Wood and Billy Porter from the original cast remained). The entire company was truly phenomenal and brought new and exciting moments to a play that I know so well. The set was also pretty incredible (I seem to be a sucker for a good set lately). Rotating pillars created different rooms when turned at different angles: one scene’s front door became another’s back wall; one’s coat hanger changed into a book shelf etc. It was quite cool.

The production has been extended three times already and has just been given a 4th extension until April 24th. I highly recommend catching it, even if you can only shell out for Part One (my favorite of the two).

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