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Angels in America, Part Two: Perestroika

by Tony Kushner

COMPANY : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 5215

SHOWING : January 18, 2018 - February 17, 2018



Sex, religion, and politics collide with history in Tony Kushner’s sweeping epic, one of the landmark theatrical events of the twentieth century. Set at the onset of the AIDS epidemic, these masterworks changed the theatrical landscape forever when they premiered on Broadway twenty-five years ago. And now, they finally land on the Actor’s Express stage in one of the most ambitious productions we’ve ever taken on.

Director Freddie Ashley
Roy Bryan Davis
Louis Louis Gregory
Harper Cara Mantella
Angel Parris Sarter
Joe J. Joe Sykes
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Quantity Over Quality
by playgoer
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Actor’s Express’s production of part two of Tony Kushner’s "Angels in America" uses the same lovely set designed by James Ogden as used for part one. Ed Thrower’s compositions are once again played at a too-loud volume (although ambient sounds during scenes, if any, are indistinguishable from distracting audience noise). Ivan Ingermann’s costumes are once again a mixed bag, featuring a lovely tailored outfit for Carolyn Cook’s Hannah on one hand and, on the other, head-on-a-skirted-table angel costumes that would seem more at home in an SNL skit. At least the flagpole wings for the main Angel (Parris Sarter) that looked so chintzy in part one flutter in a lovely way in the wrestling scene (although they tend to tangle). Joseph P. Monaghan III’s lighting doesn’t get quite the workout it got in part one, but is still effective.

Blocking is worse in part two, if anything, in terms of stationing actors with their backs to large swaths of the audience. Directors Freddie Ashley and Martin Damien Wilkins seem to have taken perverse pleasure in placing chairs and bodies that block their actors’ faces from view in this staging that has audience on three sides. There is little attempt at fluidity of movement to ensure maximum visibility. Emphasis is also placed on slow, steady pacing that makes this four-hour show as much a slog as an entertainment.

Acting is still on a high level, although Grant Chapman is forced into a stance of Complete Earnestness as Prior that robs his role of most of the fun and surprise his role had in part one. The standouts, for me, are Cara Mantella as Harper and Carolyn Cook as Hannah (and others), both of whom bring incandescent nuance to their roles. The others are more than fine, and hospital gowns and stripping give us more instances of exposed male genitals than in part one, although words still heavily predominate over nudity in this production.

"Angels in America" was a sensation in its time, and although its 1980’s AIDs-centric plot now appears dated and the text is filled with florid speeches that seem to put Mr. Kushner’s voice into the mouths of every character, it still has power. But is it the power of theatre, or Stockholm Syndrome at being trapped in a room with all these characters for four hours? You decide. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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