POST: 'Angels in America: Millennium Approaches' - Part 1
What's it about.
Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia is a two-part play written by Tony Kushner that tackles political corruption, religion, AIDS - among other STILL relevant themes - through the lives of a group of people living in New York City in the mid 1980's. This is part 1.
Disclaimer: I didn't know a single thing about this show before I saw it. No, I've never read the play and no I've never seen the movie. I know, I know! I'm THE worst! Considering Meryl Streep is one of my favorite actresses of all time, I'm embarrassed at myself so you can spare the judgement. Even though I had ample time to see the movie beforehand, even the option of seeing the miniseries with some of my fellow writers, I didn't want to. I knew that most people in the audience would have some familiarity with it and I wanted to go in as blind as I possibly could. What I did know about it was some of the actors and the director! With a line up that includes Nathan Lane (legend), Andrew Garfield, Denise Gough and Marianne Elliott, I KNEW this show was bound to be epic despite what little I knew about it.
A few minutes into the production, I knew this show was not one that I would be able to watch passively. With an insane amount of metaphorical scenerios and language, I had to be actively engaged the entire time - which would have been much easier if this show wasn't THREE AND A HALF HOURS LONG!
Off the bat, I found every single character incredibly flawed. The issues that they were dealing with like homosexuality, politics, religious identity and AIDS are all issues that we can still see people tackling today. Our country, despite it's cheery appeal and 'freedom for all' mantra, the struggle continues to be so very real.
The duo that I connected the most with and felt the most for was Harper and Joseph Pitt, a Mormon married couple from Salt Lake City, Utah who move to Brooklyn for Joseph's career that leads him to meet Roy M. Cohn, a despicable human being with Washington, D.C. connects and zero morals. I connected with this couple the most because it's clear that their religion matters a lot to them and as a result, they feel compelled to always take moral high ground despite the inner turmoil they feel. Harper is such a lost soul that she depends on Valium pills to give her hallucinations that will help her feel somewhat less lonely, and Joseph is struggling so much with coming to terms with his sexual identity that he actually stresses himself out enough to start internally bleeding. What makes this couple so tragic to me is that there isn't any family or community support for them - especially Harper! I kept thinking, 'this girl is clearly emotionally ill! Where are her parents? Siblings? Church? Why is Joseph her only support here?' Even though Joseph has his mother, she is not a listening ear for anything he does that does not match the standards of their religion. I feel like this is exactly why people run from God. Because the depiction of religion is not often an appealing one.
I found myself feeling so incredibly sad for each person in this play. For the most part, they each connect to some ethnicity - Black, Jewish, Mormon - or political party - McCarthyism, Republican but yet, they all feel just as lost as one another. No one in this play seems to find comfort in any of the things they identify with. Everything they believe in seems to be the very thing that is ripping them apart.
One of the characters in Part 1, Louis Ironson, says one single line at the beginning of the play that stuck with me all the way home. He said,
'Everyone is scared in the Land of the Free. God help us all.'
That line caused so many emotions inside of me. I kept thinking about our Founding Fathers - who I learned so much about via the musical Hamilton (thanks Lin!) and how much they fought so that future generations in America would know freedom, peace and opportunity. Yet, this show which took place in the 1980's is depicting issues that we are still dealing with in 2018. Are we a broken country because of broken political figures? Are we broken people because of laws meant to oppress and isolate those very people? Are we broken because our emotions, desires and motivations are all selfishly driven? Are we broken because of flawed religion? Are we asking for too much out of a broken country? Though I believe Louis may not have been totally serious when he said 'God help us all', that's what my heart agreed with. I believe that if we continue to hope for politics or the notion of religion to give us peace, we'll never find it.
Part one left me feeling uneasy, but also incredibly amazed. Not to my surprise, I was wowed by the various production elements - like a burning book coming out of the floor and an Angel falling from the sky. But I was also amazed by how much little snippets of humor was intertwined with some incredibly dark subject matters. My goal now is to study the crap out of this play in hopes of understanding as much of the metaphors sprinkled throughout this play as humanly possible. I found it on Sparknotes! Tony Kushner, it is ON!
Note: There's currently a blizzard happening outside and I have to head out for part two. Part two is 4 hours long. GOD HELP US ALL!
Tell us about your experience.
In the comments below.