Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Angels in America ***

I wondered how well Tony Kushner's "Gay Fantasia on American Themes" would hold up today since it was so much a product of its time. The answer for me is "better than I expected." Part 1: Millennium Approaches retains much of its theatrical power to mix the personal and the political during the early years of the AIDS crisis. The current Signature Theatre production makes up in intimacy what it lacks in grandeur. The cast mostly shines: Christian Borle (Prior Walter), Bill Heck (Joe Pitt), Billy Porter (Belize), Zachary Quinto (Louis Aronson), Frank Wood (Roy Cohn), Robin Bartlett (Hannah Pitt/the Rabbi/Ethel Rosenberg/Old Bolshevik), Robin Weigert (The Angel et al.). Although I have enjoyed her in other plays, I did not care for Zoe Kazan as Harper Pitt, but I'm not sure whether it was the character or the actor that I found lacking. The flexible set assumes many identities with the aid of intelligently used projections. However, I did find the appearance of stagehands on stage a bit distracting. Alas, Part 2: Perestroika has not improved with age. I once again found it vastly inferior to Part 1 and became increasingly restless as it dragged on and on. I recommend against seeing both parts in one day as I did. Kudos to Signature for reviving an ambitious play for a new generation. It's far from perfect but well worth the effort.

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