Angels in America
Angels We Still Need Today
When we look back at the greatest plays of the post second world war period, we have a number from which to choose. ‘Death of a Salesman’, Arthur Miller’s devastating, damning savaging of the American Dream; Harold Pinter’s scintillating psychological drama, ‘The Homecoming’; Alan Bennett’s screamingly funny and desperately moving study of ordinary people, ‘Talking Heads’…no doubt, we could all add our personal favorites.
Get Tickets to Angels in America
See this one of a kind production with some of the best seats. You won’t want to miss this performance.
On many lists will be Tony Kushner’s epic, sprawling tale of AIDS and the devastation caused by the disease at a time when many felt that a different kind of devastation was already distributed throughout America and beyond. One associated with the greed and political duplicity of the 1980s. When ‘Angels in America’ first hit the boards, audiences were stunned…moved by the scale of the production, the enormity of the themes it tackled, and the horror of a disease that was simply not understood.
Of course, that epidemic was crippling communities against the backdrop of a political leader who seemed to deny its existence. Many believed Reagan viewed AIDS as retribution against the gay community, a punishment for homosexual men. Too well advised to express the view publicly – he left that to his underlings – nevertheless he refused to countenance anything about the disease until close to the end of his Presidential years. One wonders, should a similar outbreak hit an out of favor community, quite what the reaction would be from the top of US Government.
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Back in the nineties, ‘Angels in America’ won Pulitzer Prizes and Tony Awards; in a UK still reeling from the demise of Margaret Thatcher, it managed to be nominated for a number of Olivier awards. It has recently finished its run at the Lyttleton and wise money will be on it gaining some sort of first place prize this time around.
That production, cast almost identical, is beginning a run on Broadway, with previews from February 23rd. For those who saw the ground breaking production first time round, this is a chance to view the production with the benefit of hindsight, a time now where Aids still terrifies, is still not understood but kills less often, and less quickly – at least in the world where drugs are available, and affordable. But for newcomers to the play, this is one of the must-see experiences in theater, and we urge you to get a ticket.
The story sees three interlinked tales come together. We see the disease at the heart of them, while the characters tackle themes around McCarthyism, Climate Change and other sweeping themes that have run on into the present century. Yet the production speeds along. There are good reasons for this. Firstly, despite the apparently sombre topics, the play is scorchingly funny. Secondly, excellent direction from Marianne Elliot, who envisaged the National Theater’s highly successful production of ‘War Horse’, sees the play unfold seamlessly, with set designer Ian MacNeil’s visualisation adding to the pace that is generated from the outset. Finally, the play contains some of the best performances we will see this year. Nathan Lane as the extremely hard line, McCarthy supporting lawyer Roy Cohn is particularly impressive. The fact that Cohn was a real person, who died of Aids pretending to the grave that he had liver cancer adds meat to the part. That Cohn was also a lawyer for Donald Trump makes the part totally relevant in 2018. This man was also the prosecutor who secured the death penalty for Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, for espionage. Ethel was almost certainly innocent of the crime. Knowing this, while seeing his inevitably descent to death highlights the inner turmoil we feel when any wicked person faces his or her own nemesis.
Co-lead Andrew Garfield is also outstanding as Prior Walter, his description of the sarcoma on his skin as ‘the wine-dark kiss of the angel of death’ offering a hint into the poetry of the piece. But the judgement of excellence can be said of the entire cast. The emotional and physical strain of putting on shows night after night that run to close to four hours is dealt with, and every gut wrenching night is as brilliant as the last.
An Epic Production
Of course, some staying power is needed. ‘Angels In America’ is really two inter connected plays. These are ‘Part One – Millennium Approaches’ and ‘Part Two – Perestroika’. In total, the production lasts for almost eight hours.
But the tickets are well organised. A booking includes a seat for both parts of the play, with a gap of a few days between shows. Prices, given that two trips are involved, are very reasonable. From Broadway.com, tickets for the two halves come in at $99 for the Mezzanine, increasing to $198 for the stalls. Premium seats are close to $400 each. Seatgeek prices starting from $200 including fees, but if this route is chosen, make sure that the purchase covers both halves of the play. Stubhub is cheaper, with tickets starting at $120 and typically selling from around $150. This covers both halves of the production, again with a short gap between performances.
The Neil Simon Theater, located on 250 West 52nd Street, is a large space for a straight play, with a capacity close to 1500 theatre-goers. A view from the back of the Mezzanine, or even the Stalls, will leave ticket holders a long way from the stage. With such a powerful production, and one in which we need to be caught by the story quickly, seats nearer the action will be better – but of course, there is a need to pay for that.
Putting on a production of the scale of ‘Angels in America’ does not happen often. There is a chance now to see the great production, and we recommend that you grab it. The story might be set historically in the eighties, but its themes are incredibly relevant today, in Trump’s America.