Angels in America, part 1 - review
Silo Theatre, directed by Shane Bosher
March 22, 2014
“Selfish and greedy and loveless and blind. Reagan’s children. You’re scared… Everybody is in the land of the free,” says Louis in Tony Kushner’s astonishing Pulitzer prize-winning play, Angels in America. Subtitled “a gay fantasia on national themes”, it’s passionate, fiercely intelligent, apocalyptic, unflinching in its critique of American culture in the heartless Reagan years when the AIDS crisis first traumatised the gay community; when any semblance of political integrity and morality was thrust aside by the glorification of a greedy, self-serving expediency; and the first glimmerings of climate change were permeating public consciousness.
Attitudes towards homosexuality may have mellowed and AIDS become a more manageable disease, but Kushner’s portrayal of human frailty wrestling with the nature of love, of truth and of freedom is undimmed by the passage of time.
Two couples, one gay, Prior Walters (Gareth Reeves) and Louis Ironson (Dan Musgrove), the other straight, Joe and Harper Pitt (Matt Minto and Chelsie Preston Crayford) face relationship crises: Prior has been given the “wine-dark kiss of the Angel of Death” – he has AIDS and Louis cannot cope. Joe, a Mormon, struggles with his repressed homosexuality while his unhappy wife spends her days in a paranoid, Valium-induced fantasy world.
Roy Cohn (Stephen Lovatt), tough, amoral and Joe’s employer, exemplifies the times, the ruthless games of secrets and lies: when diagnosed with AIDS himself, he denies not just his disease but his sexuality and his lifestyle, meanwhile attempting to inveigle Joe not merely into his world but into his heart.
The play ranges from a confronting and profoundly moving reality (the pain and bleeding of Prior’s debilitating physical condition, the pathos of late night anonymous sex in a park), through to the fantastic drug-induced hallucinations of both Prior and Harper (visitations from Prior’s ancient ancestors, Harper’s search for peace in the icy wastes of Antarctica), creating an almost mythic universality while delivering black humour, high camp and a majestic final spectacle worthy of Hollywood at its grandest.
Set design (Rachael Walker), costume (Elizabeth Whiting), lighting (Sean Lynch), sound (Leon Radojkovic) support Bosher’s magnificent production. His work is astute, perceptive, compelling, meaning and intention realised in every moment while the accomplished acting ensemble – Reeves, Musgrove, Minto, Preston Crayford, Lovatt, along with Jarod Rawiri, Mia Blake and Alison Bruce inhabit their roles and deliver the play with a powerful, unequivocal and naked honesty.
It’s rare to spend such a remarkable evening in the theatre. Angels in America is a must see.
To April 13.
Photo by Andrew Malmo.