Friday, March 25, 2011

Angels In America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes

Post by Mondschein

"Angels In America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes" presented by  Signature Theatre Company at the Peter Norton Space, March 17 and 22, 2011

This revival, which opened last fall, was the hard-to-get ticket and I can see why.  The cast has evolved a bit, some changes more successful than others, but in the end, this production confirms the strength of Tony Kushner's writing about the height of the AIDS crisis.

If you're not familiar with the plot, there's an adequate summary here.

Director Michael Greif and Signature Theatre Company have staged a powerhouse production.  Mark Wendland's rotating sets accommodate the varying locations, give fluid transitions and are well-complemented by Wendall K. Harrington's projection design.  The special effects are particularly well done.

The cast is strong overall, with the exception of Kiera Keeley as Harper Pitt in a particularly uneven performance.  Michael Urie's Prior Walter seems a bit overly vulnerable in Part 1, where I think Prior's anger and resentment over his situation should be stronger.  This vulnerability does play better in Part 2, as Prior comes to terms with his disease, and the demands of the angel.  Adam Driver's Louis was capable, best in scenes when Louis argues about points of history or theory.  His more emotional scenes were less effective.  Bill Heck's Joe Pitt fills the bill completely, tall blonde and handsome.  Billy Porter brings us a particularly maternal Belize.  Lynne McCollough as Hannah Pitt and Sofia Jean Gomez as the Angel, serve well in those and other roles.  Ms. McCollough's Ethel Rosenberg has some excellent moments.  The real work is accomplished by Frank Wood as the sleazy, slobbering, slimy Roy Cohn.  Mr. Wood is one of the most under-rated actors in NY and he totally excels as the salivating bottom-feeder that was the late Mr. Cohn.

Of the two plays, the Part 1: Millennium Approaches is the more traditional.  Part 2: Perestroika reaches for more political bite and offers a more theatrical bent. 

After several extensions, Angels In America will close on April 24.  If you haven't seen it yet, get your tickets now!

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