Angels in America, Part 1: Millennium Approaches
By Tony Kushner
Directed by Jeremy Seghers
Starring John Didonna, Christopher Moux, and Sean Perry
Valencia College, Orlando, Florida
Reviewed by Carl F. Gauze
Ultimately, everything comes down to death. We begin this story in the early 1990s when gay men were dying in droves from a mysterious disease. Rabbi Isodor (Sarah Lockhart) gives a eulogy for the death of Sara Ironson, a Jewish immigrant who arrived in America in the early 20th century. Her grandson Louis (Moux) contracted AIDS, a mysterious disease affecting gay men with a high fatality rate. Louis’s partner Prior (Perry) has it as well, driving the pair apart. Meanwhile, straight arrow Mormon Joe (Sean Perry) becomes involved with right wing politics through his mentor and sleaze ball political wrangler Roy Cohn (Didonna). Joe’s wife Harper (Mary Grace Meyer) pops pills and sees things and doesn’t want to leave the safety of Utah, leaving Joe in a conundrum: stay in the desert, or go where the action is. It’s a tough call for a Mormon boy. They chat with the flamboyant drag queen Belize (Marquise Hillman) who dishes out advice and sympathy and the message “Pull yourself together and do SOMETHING.” Anything. Just do it.
That’s a lot of plot, and it takes three hours and two intermissions to sort it all out. Things happen quickly and the engaging cast and production leads you through the sleazy world of politics and double standards and despair. It’s hard to pick a lead in this show. It might be the tangled relation between Prior and Louise. It might be Roy’s attempt to seduce Pitt. It might even be Harper and Joe, a conventional marriage on the outside and a morass of betrayal inside. However you slice it, there are strong performances all around. I loved Dionna’s sleazeball politics and his confession of anal warts. Then there’s Joe’s coming out sexually and politically. It might be Harper’s hallucinations and addictions. And I almost want it to be Belize’s goofy flamboyance and good advice.
The show I attended had 300 seats and maybe 20 patrons. Some of this is seating limitations due to Covid, but that was a disappointing crowd for such a well executed and famous show. Angels is monstrous, it’s controversial, and it’s challenging to both cast and audience. But it’s never slow, boring, or confusing. The people on stage might not know what they are or where they should go, but you invest in them and sympathize with their woes.