11 December 2010

'Angels in America'

On Thursday and Friday evenings, 2 and 3 December, my theater friend Diana and I trekked over to far West 42nd Street to the Peter Norton Space of the Signature Theatre for their revival of Tony Kushner’s two-part epic, Angels in America. The inaugural production of Signature’s season devoted to Kushner’s plays, this is the first revival in New York since the play’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway début in 1993, which I saw. (The play, or really plays, opened serially, Millennium Approaches opening first on 4 May ‘93 and Perestroika premièring seven months later, on 23 November. Each play won the Tony for best play its season.) The play was commissioned by the Eureka Theatre Company in San Francisco in 1987 and Millennium Approaches was staged there in 1991; Perestroika, which was being written as Millennium was in rehearsal, was presented in a staged reading. Productions followed in London (National Theatre, 1992 and ‘93) and Los Angeles (Mark Taper Forum, 1992) before it débuted at the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York. In 2003, it was aired on HBO in a star-studded adaptation that swept the Emmys, its medium’s top award. Angels has not been out of production somewhere in the world, in theaters large and small, since it first opened here. It’s taught in high schools and colleges “with the same reverence as ‘Death of a Salesman’ and ‘A Streetcar Named Desire,’” as the New York Times’s Patrick Healy reported, though not without controversy. It’s had an influence on young playwrights to one degree or another and has affected the way we consider homosexuality and AIDS, two of the themes central to Kushner’s play, which he dubbed “A Gay Fantasia on National Themes”—not a small ambition. (I find it interesting that Kushner called his monumental play that and not “A National Fantasia on Gay Themes”; it says something to me that the playwright considered that his themes, his ideas, his points are national, but seen through the prism of homosexuality. It says he isn’t writing a “gay play”; it’s an American play, even if the sensibility is gay.)

I’m going to assume that I don’t need to précis the plot—which is complex enough to require gobs of text to summarize coherently anyway, so I’ll trust that you all either know the play by now—you’ve had over 17 years!—or can find a summary somewhere on line. Suffice it to say that Kushner touches on a lot of American history and culture, including Roy Cohn (a major character in the play), Mormonism (several characters are LDS’s—and there are even scenes in the Visitors’ Center up near Lincoln Center), American politics, global warming, our health-care system, and, of course, the AIDS epidemic, in full swing when Kushner began writing Angels in 1988, the end of Ronald Reagan’s second term. (Gay activists frequently targeted Reagan and his administration for not responding to the AIDS crisis quickly, often claiming the conservative politicians dismissed the deaths of homosexuals.) In fact, Kushner writes about so many substantial ideas that the play ought to be a top-heavy, everything-including-the-kitchen-sink drama. But it isn’t. The director has a helluva job to do, not just because it’s a big play—two plays—but because he needs to keep all Kushner’s thoughts in balance and afloat. This play has always intrigued me, both as a piece of theater—there were moments when I saw it originally where my mouth literally dropped open, I was so astonished—and as a piece of literature, but I don’t think I’d want to take it on myself. It would scare the shit out of me! As the New York Post’s Elisabeth Vincentelli said, “it's a bitch to stage.” (The play also has more of the juiciest acting roles ever written in one play than any script I can think of. No wonder all those stars wanted to do it on TV!)

The Signature Theatre Company, for those who don’t know it, devotes each season to one playwright. (Following Angels, STC will present Kushner’s The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, a co-production of the New York première with the Public Theater, and The Illusion, an adaptation of Corneille's L’Illusion comique.) Kushner, of course, is a firmly established presence on American stages, the author of A Bright Room Called Day; Slavs!; Homebody/Kabul; and Caroline, or Change, a musical with composer Jeanine Tesori; as well as adaptations of S. Y. Ansky's The Dybbuk and Brecht's The Good Person of Sezuan and Mother Courage and Her Children. (He also wrote the film script for Munich and has published several books.) Kushner’s won the Pulitzer Prize, an Emmy, an Oscar nomination, two Tonys, three Obies, and an Olivier, and is the first recipient (in 2008) of the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award (the largest theater award in the U.S.).

By the time I saw Angels, which began previews on 14 September, it had already been extended from its original closing date of 19 December three times, running now until 27 March. (Much of the cast will change in February, according to an STC announcement.) The Signature revival of Millennium runs three hours and 15 minutes and Perestroika, three hours and 50 minutes (both including two intermissions). The cast of Angels, under the direction of Michael Greif, consists of eight actors playing the 20-plus roles in both parts. (The Broadway original was the same; the TV adaptation expanded the named cast to 11.) Among these, Bill Heck, who played Paul Horace Robedaux, the stand-in for Horton Foote’s father, with such sensitivity in Orphans’ Home Cycle (also at Signature) last season, plays Joe Pitt, the sexually confused Mormon Republican; in his stage début, Zachary Quinto, known from his portrayal of the young Mr. Spock in the last Star Trek movie (2009) and as Sylar, the implacable villain in the sci-fi TV series Heroes a few seasons back, is Louis Ironson, the secular Jewish liberal who is the lover of Prior Walter, the super-WASP at the center of Angels’ helical plotlines.

Angels has what Patrick Healy dubbed “its own unusual, unruly structure”—partly, I imagine, because, as Healy also describes the play, it’s a “fever dream,” a nicely apt characterization. David Savran calls the form “camp epic theatre” and cites Kushner’s own characterization, “Theatre of the Fabulous.” Kushner’s subtitle clues us in to what he’s created: fantasia in music is defined as “a free composition structured according to the composer's fancy” without concern for form or style. Dramaturgically, that’s what Angels is. When I saw the Broadway version, it was a study in artistic energy and I was incredibly exhilarated at the stupendous theatricality of it all. (In my habitual definition of good theater, that it must have something to say and say it theatrically—I’ve repeated this often by now—Angels is possibly the perfect example, meeting both my criteria in spades. I can think of a dozen plays that fit my definition—Amadeus, Equus, M Butterfly, Hadrian VII, Indians, The Seven Streams of the River Ota, The Street of Crocodiles among them—but Angels in America, as it was staged on Broadway, must be at the top.)

Healy continues that Angels is “sprawling and audacious—seven hours long with scenes set in heaven and with an angel crashing through the set to bless an AIDS-stricken man as a prophet.” That man is Prior Walter who, as I just noted, is the connection point for the swirling plots of Angels; Roy Cohn is essentially the evil twin of this function. If Prior is represented by the Angel of America who names him a prophet, Roy is his opposite, the devil incarnate, “the polestar of human evil”; Prior, however, is the center—the most abject of humans: afflicted with AIDS, haunted by ancestral ghosts, and deserted by his lover, yet anointed a prophet by The Angel. Kushner accomplishes something that I’d have thought was impossible, or nearly, from a dramaturgical perspective: he creates a story that covers a gallimaufry of topics and narratives, but they never quite spin apart into the chaos into which they ought by rights to devolve. I’m no playwright, and certainly not one who could tackle as complex a concept as Kushner’s Angels, so maybe this is all easier than I think, but the miracle the playwright pulls off here, I believe, is based on the presences of Prior and Roy (and the omni-presence of AIDS somewhere in almost all the aspects of the plot) which hold everything together. (In my discussion of a system of structural analysis developed by Michael Kirby which I’ll be publishing on ROT in several weeks, I describe one device called Character Structure that stitches a play together by the constant presence of specific characters. This would be a prime example of that application.) Without Prior or Roy, the play should fly apart like sparks from a firework pinwheel. With them, it’s still remarkable to me that it doesn’t anyway. That part’s magic; even as a dramaturg, I can’t explain why it all works—but it does. (Okay, I’ll acknowledge that the director has a lot to do with making the parts all coalesce, a daunting task without a doubt. Greif had to toe a fine line: keeping the parts assembled without trying to turn Angels into a travesty of the well-made play. It has to seem like it’s about to deconstruct itself at any moment, but doesn’t. Like the world must have seemed to gay men in 1985 and ’86, the years in which most of the play is set, when AIDS and near-certain death was staring them in the face and no one seemed to care.)

Kushner said about working on the play in the late ‘80s: “An apocalyptic consciousness crystallized during the writing. I felt something huge taking place. Millennial events! I think the play is about what was happening, about the end of containment as an ideology.” I didn’t articulate my own feelings about the play back in 1993, but I think that my response was informed by the idea that Kushner was writing about inclusiveness, or non-exclusiveness. “Containment,” said the playwright, “is the idea that there is some sort of viral presence in the body or the body politic that has to be proscribed or isolated or crushed.” Those old enough to remember the Cold War will recognize containment as the doctrine employed by NATO against the Soviet Bloc and other communist powers such as China, Cuba, and North Korea. But containment wasn’t just practiced against global political enemies; as Kushner saw, the American establishment used it to marginalize and suppress challengers to its hegemony. “Containment demonizes the other,” he explained, “whether it’s Communism or AIDS or Jews.” (We see it in action today, too—attempts to marginalize and disenfranchise minorities, women, gays, immigrants, Muslims.) The playwright felt that the country was “in the middle of this huge political upheaval of Ayn Randian selfishness” with an Orwellian cast in which “selfishness is generosity” and enriching the wealthy was good for everyone else. Kushner, writing about what he also calls Individualism, observes that we’ve paid a price for maintaining that American myth “and the political economy it serves, Capitalism”; 1987, after all, was the year of Wall Street’s “Greed Is Good.” In an interview, Kushner called Reagan an “ego-anarchist,” which I take to mean that he and people like him saw themselves as a kind of law unto themselves, outside the common restrictions and social constraints by which everyone else abides, so that they could declare, “If I do it, it’s right.” “All this insanity suddenly became the common sense of the day,” he perceived. Containment is “a politics that comes completely out of fear,” Kushner concludes, “as opposed to out of hope.” A lot of plays tell a lot of truths from the stage, many of them universal and eternal—but what Kushner articulates in Angels in America is the core of what moves me and informs my social and political beliefs. There are many other points Kushner’s making in Angels, but it’s to that to which I responded when I first saw Angels, I think. It’s in the script, of course, but it takes the cast and director to make sure we see and understand it. (That’s Play Production 101.)

Kushner’s also written a treatise on selfishness and selflessness—or, at least, caring. The characters Roy Cohn and Louis Ironson are the selfish ones, looking out for their own needs and wishes irrespective of what anyone else wants or needs. Kushner’s Roy, of course, is supremely self-centered and advises others, like Joe Pitt, his would-be "Royboy," to follow his lead. “You do what you need to do, Joe,” Roy instructs. “What you need. You.” Louis is selfish because he’s afraid to connect and runs away from difficult entanglements—and he suffers for it. Joe is also self-serving, leaving Harper, his troubled wife, but he does so out of his own confusion. The character Belize, the professional caregiver—he’s a nurse—is the example of selflessness. That’s not a good word here: Belize isn’t Mother Teresa, but he does look out for others. As much as he hates Roy, Belize takes care of him and even counsels him forthrightly on his illness—a gift Roy abuses, of course. (Belize takes his payment in the end, though. When Roy dies, Belize steals the huge private stash of AZT, hard to get without the kind of pull Roy can muster, and distributes it to his AIDS-infected friends. Before he can do so, however, he must make Louis, the secularized Jew, say Kaddish over Roy’s body.) Kushner remarked that when AIDS hit the gay community and outsiders were afraid to help, the community came out to care for its own sick; even other sick people helped care for those more ill. (The opposite of individualism, Kushner believes, is collectivity, other words for which include cooperation and collaboration. Brecht, Kushner asserts, was committed to this notion as “an ideal and an achievable political goal,” but which the supporters of individualism and self-interest malign as socialism.) Belize demonstrates that kind of concern for others. Roy dies for his sins; Louis and Joe learn the lessons, to some extent, of theirs and, at the end of Perestroika, try to work their ways back. Louis may succeed to a degree, but Joe is rejected by Harper (who nonetheless takes his credit card). Joe, of course, like Roy, has two sins for which to atone: his betrayal of Harper and his politics, which he never confronts. (Kushner, we must note, describes himself as a “red-diaper baby.”) It isn’t a clean conclusion, but it offers a kind of hope: the ‘80s have turned into the ‘90s and the Reagan era of the self is out and Clinton’s term of feeling our pain is about to come in. The world is being “restructured”—ready to “crack wide open,” as Louis rejoices in the play’s epilogue.

Ben Brantley, in his New York Times review, asserted that viewers would compare the Signature revival with the original Broadway production. I found, however, that that first version is so far in my past that I don’t really remember anything but the most general impressions. Maybe other spectators have more specific memories and are making comparisons, but I found that I was seeing Michael Greif’s staging pretty much for itself. I was also reminded of two things as I sat in the audience for the second act of Millennium: first, that the acting at Signature shows is excellent as a rule—I can’t recall ever seeing a bad acting job even in plays for which I didn’t much care—and that Tony Kushner can be a great playwright, by which I mean “crafter of plays” not just a writer of scripts. I didn’t like Homebody/Kabul very much, but my reaction as we were leaving the theater after Millennium was, “Whatever else went on, that was a piece of theater.” (Of course, I maintain that a lot “else” went on, but we’ll get to that.)

Greif has maintained the theatricality of the script even on the small and technically limited stage of the Norton Space. It’s a rather low-tech production, by the way: stage hands move the set fragments that create the various locations by hand in low light, which is much more noticeable than the unobtrusive sliding on and off accomplished for the multiple sets of last year’s Orphans’ Home Cycle. (These stage hands, dressed in black like Kabuki koken, appear fairly often not just to move the sets around, but to assist actors with on-stage costume adjustments and to unhook The Angel’s flying wires and reattach them when she lifts off at the end of her scenes.) This is really the only misstep I can discern in Greif’s production concept. Mark Wendland’s set is just too busy; there are large sections representing other parts of the play’s milieu that stand unused in the dark while a scene unfolds in a space perhaps a third of the stage area. There may be a point in this encroachment of one part of the play’s world on another—often the “wall” of one space is actually part of a set next to it so that, for example, in the bathroom at the courthouse where Louis and Joe work, the sink seems to be coming off the back of a storage shelf from another room. In a universe where Roy’s tentacles—“Next time around . . .,” he orders just before he dies, “I wanna be an octopus”—reach out not only into Joe and Harper’s world but into Louis and Prior’s, and one person’s hallucination actually forms part of someone else’s dream—the delirious Prior and the Valium-addicted and distracted Harper cross over into each other’s visions—it may make sense for there to be many mansions in this house, but as a performance element, I found it distracting and confining. (In comparison to the published reviewers I read, I’m almost alone in this opinion.)

The other main element of the stage design are Wendell K. Harrington’s projections (something of a trend on New York stages just now) which enhance both the realistic scenes (rain, snow, Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain, and so on) and the fantasy/hallucinatory ones (a snowscape in Antarctica, clocks and timepieces in a council chamber in Heaven). These work excellently and have a more artistic dynamic than the omnipresent multiple sets, which seems a matter of practicality more than art.

Several reviewers made the point that Greif’s presentation of Kushner’s structurally and thematically ground-breaking play, which has gone on to influence writers all across the Western world and to expand what we may expect from theater, is softer and less astonishing than George C. Wolfe’s Broadway production. Some found this an asset for a 21st-century return to the play, but others felt it has reduced the play’s impact on the spectator. Having already admitted that I only vaguely recall the Broadway staging, I can’t speak for anyone else, but although I found the presentation a little less startling—the subjects and the staging techniques have all become much more common in the ensuing 17 years, after all—I had no trouble reacting with a frisson of excitement. In a way, I think, the familiarity of both the play as part of our late-20th-century culture and the tactics employed to communicate its narrative and philosophical points make it easier to listen to what Kushner and his characters are saying and respond to the play with a cooler, if that’s a way to put it, head and heart. If Greif hasn’t found new ways to shock us to replace the ones Wolfe used 17 years ago, then maybe that’s all to the good—dramatically if not theatrically. (The show doesn’t lack for theatricality in any case. We’re talking degrees here.)

As for the acting, I return to my earlier point that the STC always assembles excellent casts to begin with. That’s certainly down to the director’s casting sense, and Greif has put together a top-notch company for Angels. If Frank Wood stands out for his portrayal of Roy Cohn, that’s mostly because Kushner wrote him the juiciest part. (Actors have often said that villains are the best roles in most plays and movies, but I suspect that writers have a similar sentiment when they write their characters. The devil, as they say, always gets the best lines. Kushner’s said that his original inspiration for Angels was Roy Cohn’s death in 1986, especially when the dramatist read Cohn’s obituary in the liberal Nation, which took great glee, apparently, “over his demise.”) Still, Wood makes the absolute most of the part, easily competing with his more famous predecessors Ron Leibman (original Broadway cast), F. Murray Abraham (Broadway replacement), and Al Pacino (HBO film). He relishes each line and each scene right up until the end when Roy, in his delirium, tries to put death on hold, having confused one of the bells and whistles on his hospital monitor with his ringing multi-line telephone back at his office. He’s just been disbarred, but he’s still working the phones just as he was when we meet him in his first scene.

One of the most impressive cast members is Robin Bartlett whose principal role is Hannah Pitt, Joe’s unbending and unsentimental Mormon mother. But Bartlett plays several cross-gendered parts, including Rabbi Chemelwitz who, in the prologue to Millennium, delivers the eulogy for Louis’s grandmother; Henry, Roy’s doctor who delivers the diagnosis of AIDS; and Aleksii Antedilluvianovich Prelapsarianov, the World’s Oldest Bolshevik who delivers what Scott Brown of New York mag aptly called the malediction at the beginning of Perestroika. (Bartlett also gets to play the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg, Roy’s haunting vision; she’s the one who delivers the news to him that he’s been kicked out of the legal profession, the one thing in the world he loved.) The rest of the small cast, all of whom play multiple parts, are solid, credible, and tuned in. It was in great part the rendition of Kushner’s lines that made me stop briefly and remark to myself how good the writer’s work was here. The cast handles the moments of poetic flight as well as they do the more prosaic-seeming speech. (Like most apparently realistic stage speech, Kushner’s language only sounds like ordinary people talking. In reality, no one you and I know could speak that way without a lot of craft.) As Belize, Billy Porter is swishier than Jeffrey Wright was, but the strength and innate kindness of the character shine through and Porter can still be a scary bitch when the need arises, as when Belize deals straightforwardly with not just Roy but also Louis. Quinto, whose dark aspect served him so well in both Star Trek and Heroes, makes a solid but wounded Louis, playing well on the Jewish guilt syndrome—this man takes everything seriously—and Christian Borle’s Prior is flighty but stubborn and heartbreakingly needy while still managing to be funny and human. (I recall someone remarking that Stephen Spinella, a very skinny actor who played Prior on Broadway as well as in San Francisco and L.A., was the sickest-looking well man he’d ever seen; Borle doesn’t match that bodily aspect of the character; nonetheless, he’s entirely convincing as a physically and emotionally stricken man.) The fear he evinces, which ranges from abject to nearly campy, rings as true as I could imagine it ought to be. And the doomed relationship between him and Louis, established as much by Quinto’s slow, and only partial, turn-around as by Borle’s steadfastness, puts them squarely at the emotional center of Angels (even though they spend most of the play apart).

(A few words about the character of Ethel Rosenberg’s ghost in the play. Several reviewers remarked that Kushner was making a claim for Rosenberg’s innocence, which has been essentially challenged by revelations from Soviet-era documents released after the fall of the Communism. As I understand Angels, the question isn’t her guilt or innocence regarding the passing of atomic secrets to the Soviets, but her trial and the death penalty she received. Roy Cohn’s culpability isn’t in convicting an innocent woman, but in interfering with the case by pressuring the judge to sentence her to death. According to Kushner’s notes, there’s historical record that Cohn, who was the Assistant U.S. Attorney on the case, had improper communication with the judge hearing the case and that’s what condemns Roy in the play.)

Bill Heck, in a role that in some ways is like Paul Horace Robedaux because both men appear stalwart and steady—Prior calls Joe “the Marlboro Man”—pulls off the dichotomy between Joe’s outer appearance and his inner turmoil quite nicely. As Harper, Zoe Kazan, whom Scott Brown thought was miscast, seems wholly appropriate to me: looking like a corn-fed country girl who, despite her strict Mormon indoctrination, is spinning out of control mentally. (She calls herself a “Jack Mormon,” a term that apparently means a lapsed or apostate LDS.) In addition to her need for a couple or three Valiums to get through the day, she’s agoraphobic and obsessed with the hole in the ozone; Harper’s an unlikable character—Joe’s flight isn’t entirely his own failing—but Kazan makes her tolerable and even important. If Kazan looks like “an elfin child bride,” as Brown wrote, it just makes her abject confusion and psychological foundering the more painful to see. (I’ll give Brown the benefit of the doubt and suggest that between October, when he found Kazan unconvincing, and December, when I saw Angels, she’d located the key to the role.)

Having said that Kushner demonstrates first-rate playwriting in Angels, there is some of the script that bears scrutiny. My friend Diana complained that much of the text is monologues, even in the multiple-character scenes. She brought up Louis especially as a character who speechifies even when he’s talking with someone else, but that’s supposed to be the way Louis is—he bulldozes through a conversation without really listening to anyone else—so he’s not a good example. Still, even if Diana’s correct, and she is to a degree, it doesn’t bother me. (Some reviewers saw the speeches as arias—and some really are.) A lot of epic scripts tend in that direction; it’s the nature of the play. Angels also tends to wax sentimental from time to time, especially when it comes to the AIDS crisis and those suffering from it. That’s certainly understandable, particularly when we consider when Kushner started writing the play—it was the same time and the same impetus that launched ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), the radical activist group started by another playwright, Larry Kramer. Terry Teachout in the Wall Street Journal complained that this made the play trite; I’m not sure that triteness is what bothered me, but it cloyed at those times. Now, some sentimentality is apt for Angels because part of Kushner’s big point is that emotion, feeling, and love are the ways we as a society can return to the kind of democracy he feels America is meant to be—with what he calls a sense of communitas—rather than the upside-down one it had become under the influences of the McCarthys, the Nixons, the Reagans, and the Cohns. (Louis even throws Joseph Welch’s recrimination of Joe McCarthy up to Joe Pitt: “Have you no decency, sir? At long last? Have you no sense of decency?”) Perhaps what I’m complaining about, then, isn’t sentimentality, but sentimentalism.

A bigger problem, especially since the actors all managed to pull off the sentimental excesses creditably, is the length of the play. Even in two parts, seven hours is excessive. Kushner himself acknowledges that some scenes can be cut (although he doesn’t think they should be), and two two-hour plays could have handled the material well enough, I’d think. The scenes in Heaven, especially the council scene, and the extended scene of Prior wrestling with The Angel are among the overlong moments, and the epilogue at the end of Perestroika seems gratuitous. (It’s ironic that the play’s first director, in a 1990 L.A. workshop, was Oskar Eustis, who is a dramaturg. Dramaturgs are to theater what editors are to publishing. What’s more, in a 1994 interview, the playwright described that council scene as one that wasn’t performed in the original productions “because it just didn’t play,” yet it was reinstated for this revival. That’s the opposite of editing!) In fact, Perestroika, the longer of Angels’ two parts, is much less muscular and vigorous than Millennium—and I remember feeling that way when I saw it on Broadway in 1994. (Trying to tie the Soviet restructuring to the American body politic in 1986 seems a logical stretch as well—the fit is forced and strained.) I felt as if Kushner, having several ideas left over and a few story strands unresolved, chose to write another four-hour play instead of trying to incorporate the best of the remaining details into the stronger and tighter Millennium. (When I was in the army, it used to be a tradition for a departing officer to invite his friends and colleagues to his quarters just before his household’s packed up for transport. He throws a “left-over party”—the guests drink up all the left-over booze, making up whatever drinks they can come up with using what’s on hand. That’s a little the way I feel about Perestroika: it’s a left-over play.)

But Angels in America is a gigantic play, so even big mistakes and lapses leave an awful lot of really good theater. I’ve been to plays, even recently, both big ones and small ones, that went seriously off the track (or were never really on it to start with), and it was hard to sit through them. I’d come out of the theaters feeling unhappy and cheated, wondering why someone would produce such a play (I asked that very questions recently after seeing Kopit’s Wings; see my report on ROT, 26 November). But Angels is still an exhilarating experience in the theater. WSJ’s Teachout wrote that it’s Kushner’s “willing[ness] to take chances instead of sticking to off-the-rack theatrical models” than makes Angels what it is. In a way, its faults make it even more astounding, because it tries so much and if it fails now and then, that just points up the successes, and grand successes they are, that propel the play and its production onward. If the details of the plots are dated—AIDS is no longer an automatic death sentence and Reagan is gone—they can be seen as metaphors for what we have now: the health-care dilemma looks a lot like the residue of the AIDS crisis and George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Tom DeLay, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and even Sarah Palin are heirs to the Reagan legacy. (And that’s not even considering same-sex marriage and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” both current questions yet to be sorted out.) The issues Angels raises haven’t been resolved since 1988 or 1993. “The world only spins forward,” says Prior at the end of Perestroika. And so does Angels in America.

[With the third extension of the production, there may still be tickets available for Signature’s Angels in America. The houses were entirely full the nights I saw the production, and I know that STC has announced that there are no more subscriptions available for the season. If there are still seats available for Angels, there won’t be for long (and the price will have gone up from the $20 cap that STC maintains through a grant for its originally scheduled runs), so I strongly recommend that any reader interested in catching this worthwhile theater experience contact the theater now (212-244-PLAY; www.signaturetheatre.org).]


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  2. The Signature Theatre has just announced a fourth (and final) extension of its current production of "Angels in America" until 24 April. Once again, I strongly recommend taking this opportunity to see this show. Tickets are available, and contact information for the theater is included in ROT's main article, above.


  3. An opera adaption of Kushner's 'Angels in America,' created by Hungarian composer Peter Eotvos, premièred with the New York City Opera at the Rose Theater, the Lincoln Center house in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, on 10 June 2017. The two-act opera (trimmed from Kushner's two-part, seven-hour play) was written in 2004 and premièred in Paris that year. The belated New York début coincides with the 25th anniversary of the original play's world première in London.