Angles in America : A gay fantasia on national Themes
Angels in America redirects here. For the TV miniseries, see Angels in America Angels in America : A Gay fantasia o nnational themes is a 1993 play in two parts by American playwrifht Tony Kushner. The work won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Tony Award for Best Play, and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding play
The play is a complex, often metaphorical, and at times symbolic examination of AIDS and homosexuality in American in the 1980s. Certain major and minor characters are supernatural beings (angles) or deceased persons (ghosts). The play contains multiple roles for several of the actors. Initially and primarily focusing on a gay couple in Manhattan, the play also has several other storylines, some of which occasionally intersect.
The two parts of the play are separately presentable and entitled millennium Approaches and Perestroika, respectively. The play has been made into a television miniseries, and an opera by peter Eotvos.
Part one : Set in New York City in 195, the play opens with Louis Ironson, a gay Jew, learning that his lover, wasp prior walter, has aids. As prior’s illness progresses, Louis becomes unable to cope and moves out, leaving prior to deal with his abandonment. Prior begins to receive visits from a pair of ghosts who claim to be his own ancestors, and hears an angelic voice telling him to prepare for her arrival. prior does not know if these visitations are caused by an emotional breakdown or if they are real.
Meanwhile, closeted gay Mormon and Republican Joe Pitt, a law clerk in the same judge’s office where Louis holds a clerical job, is offered a position in washington, D.C., by his mentor, the McCarthyist lawyer Roy Cohn. Joe hestiates to accept out of concern for his agoraphobic wife Harper, who refuses to move. Harper suspects that Joe does not love her, which is confirmed when Joe confesses his homosecuality. Harper retreats into a drug-fuleled escapist fantasy, including a dream where she crosses paths with Prior even though the two of them have never met in the real world. Joe’s conservative mother Hannah arrivese in New York, where she finds that in reality Harper has been wandering the streets of the city while Joe begins an affair with Louis. Denying her son’s homosexuality, Hannah instead triese to force a reconciliation between Harper and Joe.
Connecting all these characters is Roy Cohn, himself deeply closeted, who ha sjust learned he has AIDS. Cohn uses his political connections to secure a supply of an experimental drug, AZT, at the expense of withholding the drug fro mparticipants in a drug trial. Now alone in a hospital, Cohn finds himself judged by his night nurse Belize (a former drag queen and a friend of Prior’s )and the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg, whom Cohn had executed years before.
At the end of Part One, Priror is visited by an angel, who proclaims Prior to be a prophet and tells him that the Great work has begun.
As the play continues, the angel reveals to Prior that Heaven is a beautiful city that resembles san franciso, but that god, bored wit hhis angles, made mankind with the power to change and create. The progress of mankind on Earth caused Heaven to physically deteriorate. inally, on the day of the San Francisco earthquake, God abandoned Heaven. The angel brings Prior a message for mankin – stop moving. – in the belief that if man ceases to ptrogress, heaven will be restored. Prior confides this vision to Belize, but Belize believes that Prior is projecting his own fears of abandonment into an elaborate hallucination.
Prior goest to a Mormon visitor’s center to research angels, where he meets Harper, who has slowly returned to reality. The two recognize each other from their shared dream. prior collapses from pneumonia and Hannah rushes him back to the hospital. Prior tells her about his vision and is surprised when Hannah believese him based on her belief in angelic revelations within the Mormon church. At the hospital, the angle reappears enraged that Prior rejected her message. prior wrestles the angle, who relents and opens a ladder int oHeaven. prior climbs int oHeaven and tells the other angels that he refuses to deliver their message, as without progress, humantiy will perish.
Belize informs Louis about Joe’s connection with Cohn, whom Louis despises for his anti-gay rhetoric. Louis goes to confront Joe directly, and Joe physically assaults him, after which Louis leaves him for good, Now abandoned by his wife and his lover, Joe goes to cohn for guidance. Cohn, manwhile ,ahs just learned that his political enemies have moved to have him disbarred, has vowed to remain a lawyer until the day he dies. Rather thatn comforting him, Cohn viciously bereates Joe for leaving his wife for another man, forcing Joe to realize tht Louis’s opinion of Cohn was true. He revukes Cohn and leaves the man to die alone. Ethel Rosenberg watches Cohn’s last supporter abandon him before delivering the final blow Cohn has been disbarred after all. Cohn dies shortly thereafter
The play concludes five years later. Prior and Louis are still separated, but Louis, along with Belize, remains close in order to support and care for Prior; Harper forgave Joe, but refused to stay with him, instead moving to San Francisco and Hannah has found a new perspective on her rigid beliefs, allowing her to accept her son as he is. prior, Louis, Belize, and hannah gather before the angel statue in Bethesda Foundatin. Prior talks of the legend of the Pool of Bethesda, where the sick were healed. Prior delivers the play’s final lines directly to the audience, affirming his intentions to live on and telling them that the great work shall continue.
The play’s first part, Millennium Approaches, was commissioned by the Center Theatre Group at the Mark taper Forum, with which Kushner has along association. it was first performed in Los Angeles as a workshop in May 1990 by the Center Theatre Group at the mark taper Forum. The play is deliverately performed so that the moments requiring special effects often show their theatricality. There are heavy Biblical referencese and references to American society, as well as some fantastical scenes including voyages to Antarctica and Heaven, as wel as key events happening in San Francisco and at Bethesda Fountain in Central Park.
Millennium Approaches received its world premiere in May 1991 in a production performed by the Eureka Theatre Company of San Francisco, directed by David Esbjornson. in london it premiered in a National Theatre production