Angels in America – Part One: The Millennium Approaches and Part Two: Perestroika
Director: Marianne Elliott
Writer: Tony Kushner
Cast: James McArdle, Andrew Garfield, Russell Tovey, Denise Gough, Susan Brown, Nathan Lane, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett
Seen on: 20. and 27.7.2017
It’s the 80s and the AIDS crisis is in full swing. Louis Ironson (James McArdle) just found out that his boyfriend Prior Walter (Andrew Garfield) is infected and he doesn’t know how to deal. Joe Pitt (Russell Tovey) also isn’t able to deal: as a Mormon and a Republican and married to Harper (Denise Gough), he can’t possibly be gay, can he? Joe and Louis both work for Roy Cohn (Nathan Lane), a lawyer who may enjoy fucking other man, but that doesn’t make him gay. But Roy’s health is also on the decline.
Angels in America is an affective and effective play, and this production feels monumental. It weighs heavily – as is only right for the topic matter.
I saw the TV adaptation of this two parter many years ago, but I only have vague memories of it anymore. I’m pretty sure it’s good. In any case that meant that I went into this play with a rather fresh eye and I was taken by a lot of it – because it touches on so many things. With the starting point of the fundamental disaster that was the outbreak of AIDS and the political reaction to it, Angels shows the devastation that tore through the gay community as life after life was taken.
But it also includes topics that go beyond that: coming out or staying in the closet; what it means to be gay in the first place; mental illness; racism – though admittedly, that’s only a sidenote and Belize (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) remains tragically underused; religion; death and loss. There’s much to dissect here.
The fantastic cast (down to the last performance) manages to deliver all these very philosophical concepts with apparent ease, and cloaked in a sense of humor that makes things a little more bearable. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t emotionally devastating – because it very much is. The only plotline I couldn’t really connect to was the one about Roy who I hated too much, making me wish I could fast forward through his bits.
The production – spreading the two parter over two rather long nights – knows to how to switch between minimalistic sets and the grandness needed for the angels to work. At times I felt a little flattened by everything, but then it is necessary to feel the weight of what’s happening here. It’s a heavy story.
Summarizing: Really good.