It's America circa 1986, the land of the guilt-ridden and home of the closeted homosexual people. And it's the world of Tony Kushner's award-winning play, Angels in America. Subtitled “A Gay Fantasia on National Themes,” Angels in America might just be the saddest and hardest-hitting fantasia around – and it’s fantastic.
Part 1 of the play, Millennium Approaches, follows two couples in mid-1980s New York City. The first is Prior (Adam Standley) and Louis (Quinn Franzen), a gay couple working to keep Prior alive in his fight against AIDS and keep Louis from leaving in fear of what the future may bring. The second couple, Joe (Ty Boice) and Harper (Alex Highsmith), fight over Harper’s agoraphobia and Valium addiction, along with Joe’s emotional and sexual distance in light of a recent promotion at work. Along with other family and friends, these characters are forced into making unwinnable decisions in the face of death, infidelity, religion, and sexual orientation.
If you’re looking for a play that might be good for a fun, lighthearted afternoon, this might not be the best choice. But if you’re in it for the long haul and want to see something raw, depressing, and just about as controversial as can be, this is exactly what you need. To start, this play is LONG – I only saw Part 1 of the play and it totaled more than three hours in length. The play in its entirety, which you can see by buying a "marathon" ticket, is almost 7 hours long, not including intermissions, without a single moment wasted. Every single part of the play has meaning, and it never gets boring even if the storytelling format becomes a little hard to follow at times.
The characters are all very realistic, with no one an angel yet no one the devil either, making a story that could easily become preachy into an intriguing look at the way people tackle major personal, relationship, and existential problems. More importantly, controversy isn’t shied away from; it’s embraced with open arms. Especially concerning homosexuality in a time just 10 years after Harvey Milk’s assassination, playwright Tony Kushner isn’t at all afraid to look at the controversies and prejudice through as many lenses as possible, and the Tony Award he earned for it is well-deserved.
What I find most inspiring about the production, however, is the dedication that the entire company gives to AIDS in today’s society. By partnering with Fred Hutchinson, a leader in HIV and AIDS prevention and cure, they’re able to spread information and raise funds for the cause long after the play has ended, sending the actors out to collect donations and passing out informational brochures and safe-sex materials by the door. In my eyes, this is the distinguishing factor that brings this show from great to amazing. Intiman isn’t just doing this production for the sake of it. They truly care about the subject matter, and they portray that subject matter both on and offstage.
Angels in America, Part 1: Milleniun Approaches is not pretty. It’s not fun or just interested in getting a laugh. This play is intense, and it’s important, and I guarantee you it’s worth your time.
Angels in America, Part 1: Millenium Approaches
August 12 - September 21