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Part one of the play premiered in  and its Broadway opening was in The play is a complex, often metaphorical, and at times symbolic examination of AIDS and homosexuality in America in the s. Certain major and minor characters are supernatural beings angels or deceased persons ghosts. The play contains multiple roles for several of the actors. Initially and primarily focusing on a gay couple in Manhattan, the play also has several other storylines, some of which occasionally intersect.
The two parts of the play are separately presentable and entitled Millennium Approaches and Perestroika , respectively. The play has been adapted into an HBO miniseries of the same title.
Clum called the play "a turning point in the history of gay drama, the history of American drama, and of American literary culture". As Prior's illness progresses, Louis becomes unable to cope and moves out, leaving Prior to deal with his abandonment. He is given emotional support by his friend Belize, an ex-drag queen and a hospital nurse, who also must deal with Louis' self-castigating guilt and myriad excuses for his behavior. Joe Pitt, a Mormon, Republican clerk in the same judge's office where Louis holds a clerical job, is offered a position in Washington, D.
Joe hesitates to accept out of concern for his agoraphobic , valium -addicted wife Harper, who refuses to move. Harper suspects that Joe does not love her in the same way she loves him, which is confirmed when Joe confesses his homosexuality. Harper retreats into drug-fueled escapist fantasies, including a dream where she crosses paths with Prior even though the two of them have never met in the real world.
Torn by pressure from Roy and a burgeoning infatuation with Louis, Joe drunkenly comes out to his conservative mother Hannah, who reacts badly. Concerned for her son, she sells her house in Salt Lake City and travels to New York to help repair his marriage. Meanwhile, a drug-addled Harper has fled their apartment after a confrontation with Joe, wandering the streets of Brooklyn believing she is in Antarctica as Joe and Louis tentatively begin an affair.
Defiantly refusing to publicly admit he is gay or has AIDS, Roy instead declares he has liver cancer. Facing disbarment for borrowing money from a client, Roy is determined to beat the case so he can die a lawyer and he attempts to position Joe in the Justice Department with the aim of having a friend in a useful place.
When Joe at last refuses his offer, he flies into a rage and collapses in pain. As he awaits transport to the hospital, he is visited by the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg , whom he prosecuted in her trial for espionage, and who was executed after Roy illegally lobbied the judge for the death penalty.
Prior begins to hear an angelic voice telling him to prepare for her arrival, and receives visits from a pair of ghosts who claim to be his own ancestors, who inform him he is a prophet. Prior does not know if these visitations are caused by an emotional breakdown or if they are real.
At the end of Part One, Prior is visited by an angel , who crashes through his bedroom ceiling and proclaims that "the Great Work" has begun. At the funeral of a friend, a shaken Prior relates his encounter with the Angel to Belize. After revealing the presence of a mystical book underneath the tile in Prior's kitchen, the Angel reveals to him that Heaven is a beautiful city that resembles San Francisco , and God, described as a great flaming Aleph , created the universe through copulation with His angels, who are all-knowing but unable to create or change on their own.
God, bored with the angels, made mankind with the power to change and create. The progress of mankind on Earth caused Heaven to suffer earthquake-like tremors and physically deteriorate. Finally, on the day of the San Francisco earthquake in , God abandoned Heaven. The Angel brings Prior a message for mankind—"stop moving! Belize believes that Prior is projecting his own fears of abandonment into an elaborate hallucination, but Prior suspects that his illness is the prophecy taking physical form, and that the only way the Angel can force him to deliver her message is to die.
Roy lands at the hospital in the care of Belize, where his condition rapidly declines. He manages to use his political clout to acquire a private stash of the experimental drug AZT , at the expense of withholding the drug from participants in a drug trial. Alone in a hospital, Cohn finds himself increasingly isolated, with only Belize, who despises him, and the ghost of Ethel for company.
Joe visits Roy, who is near death, and receives a final, paternal blessing from his mentor. However, when Joe confesses he has left Harper for a man, Roy rejects him in a violent reaction of fear and rage, ordering him to return to his wife and cover up his indiscretion. Prior goes to a Mormon visitor's center to research angels, where he meets Hannah, who is volunteering there and taking care of Harper, who has slowly returned to reality but is now deeply depressed. Harper and Prior share a spark of recognition from their shared dream, and witness a vision of Joe and Louis together.
Louis, regretting his actions, begins to withdraw from Joe and begs Prior's forgiveness, which Prior angrily refuses. Belize informs Louis about Joe's connection with Roy, whom Louis despises for his conservative politics and underhanded dealings. Louis, as a result, researches Joe's legal history and confronts him over a series of hypocritical and homophobic decisions Joe himself wrote.
The confrontation turns violent, and Joe punches Louis in the face, ending their affair. Ethel Rosenberg watches Roy suffer and decline before delivering the final blow as he lies dying: He has been disbarred after all. Delirious, Roy seems to mistake Ethel for his mother, begging her to comfort him, and Ethel sings a Yiddish Lullaby as Roy appears to pass away. However, with a sudden burst of energy he reveals that he has tricked her, viciously declaring that he has finally beaten her by making her sing.
He then collapses and dies. He asks Louis to recite the Kaddish for Roy. Unseen by the living, Ethel guides Louis through the prayer, symbolically forgiving Roy before she departs for the hereafter.
After his confrontation with Joe, Prior collapses from pneumonia while visiting the Mormon center and Hannah rushes him back to the hospital. Prior tells her about his vision and is surprised when Hannah accepts this, based on her belief in angelic revelations within Latter-day Saint theology. At the hospital, the Angel reappears enraged that Prior rejected her message. Prior, on Hannah's advice, wrestles the Angel , who relents and opens a ladder into Heaven.
Prior climbs into Heaven and tells the other angels that he refuses to deliver their message, as without progress, humanity will perish, and begs them for more Life, no matter how horrible the prospect might be. He returns to his hospital bed, where he awakens from his vision with his fever broken and his health beginning to recover. He makes amends with Louis, but refuses to take him back. The play concludes in Prior and Louis are still separated, but Louis, along with Belize, remain close in order to support and care for Prior, and Hannah has found new perspective on her rigid beliefs, allowing her to accept her son as he is and forge a friendship with Prior.
Prior, Louis, Belize, and Hannah gather before the angel statue in Bethesda Fountain , discussing the fall of the Soviet Union and what the future holds. Prior talks of the legend of the Pool of Bethesda , where the sick were healed. Prior delivers the play's final lines directly to the audience, affirming his intentions to live on and telling them that "the Great Work" shall continue. The play is written for eight actors, each of whom plays two or more roles. Kushner's doubling, as indicated in the published script, requires several of the actors to play different genders.
The play's second part, Perestroika , was still being developed as Millennium Approaches was being performed. It was performed several times as staged readings by both the Eureka Theatre during the world premiere of part one in , and the Mark Taper Forum in May In November it received its London debut in a National Theatre production on the Cottesloe stage, in repertory with a revival of Millennium Approaches , again directed by Declan Donnellan.
Wolfe , with Millennium Approaches performed on May 4 and Perestroika joining it in repertory on November 23, closing December 4, Among the replacements during the run were F. The published script indicates that Kushner made a few revisions to Perestroika in the following year. These changes officially completed the work in Johnson as Joe Pitt, Barbara E. Kushner made relatively minor revisions to Millennium Approaches and additional, more substantial revisions to Perestroika during a run at the Signature Theatre in , which were published in a complete edition.
In , a production of the two-part play was produced by Sydney-based theatre company, Belvoir. The production finished its season on July Asia premiered the play in its entirety in by the New Voice Company in the Philippines.
This was followed by another production in November at the Singapore Airlines Theatre. An Italian adaptation of the play premiered in Modena in , in a production directed by Ferdinando Bruni and Elio De Capitani  which was awarded several national awards. The production received critical praise and launched the new theater company.
In September , a revival of the two plays were staged in Melbourne at fortyfivedownstairs for nearly a four-week run. Kushner prefers that the theatricality be transparent. In his notes about staging, he writes: "The plays benefit from a pared-down style of presentation, with scenery kept to an evocative and informative minimum. This must be an actor-driven event. The choice to have "no blackouts" allows audiences to participate in the construction of a malleable theatrical world.
One of the many theatrical devices in Angels is that each of the eight main actors has one or several other minor roles in the play.
For example, the actor playing the nurse, Emily, also plays the Angel, Sister Ella Chapter a real estate agent , and a homeless woman. This doubling and tripling of roles encourages the audience to consider the elasticity of, for example, gender and sexual identities. In , HBO Films created a miniseries version of the play. Kushner adapted his original text for the screen, and Mike Nichols directed. HBO broadcast the film in various formats: three-hour segments that correspond to Millennium Approaches and Perestroika , as well as one-hour "chapters" that roughly correspond to an act or two of each of these plays.
The first three chapters were initially broadcast on December 7, to international acclaim, with the final three chapters following. Angels in America was the most watched made-for-cable movie in and won both the Golden Globe and Emmy for Best Miniseries.
Kushner made certain changes to his play especially Part Two, Perestroika for it to work on screen, but the HBO version is generally a faithful representation of Kushner's original work. Kushner has been quoted as saying that he knew Nichols was the right person to direct the movie when, at their first meeting, Nichols immediately said that he wanted actors to play multiple roles , as had been done in onstage productions.
The opera was based on both parts of the Angels in America fantasia, however the script was re-worked and condensed to fit both parts into a two and half hour show. I rather focus on the passionate relationships, on the highly dramatic suspense of the wonderful text, on the permanently uncertain state of the visions. The text of Prior Walter's soliloquy from Scene 5 of Perestroika was set to music by Michael Shaieb for a festival celebrating Kushner's work at the Guthrie Theater.
The work premiered at the Guthrie in April The play garnered much praise upon its release for its dialogue and exploration of social issues.
A decade after the play's premiere, Metro Weekly labeled it "one of the most important pieces of theater to come out of the late 20th century. By contrast, in an essay titled "Angles in America", the cultural critic Lee Siegel wrote in The New Republic , " Angels in America is a second-rate play written by a second-rate playwright who happens to be gay, and because he has written a play about being gay, and about AIDS, no one—and I mean no one—is going to call Angels in America the overwrought, coarse, posturing, formulaic mess that it is.
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Set in , the film revolves around six New Yorkers whose lives intersect. The film explores a wide variety of themes, including Reagan era politics, the spreading AIDS epidemic , and a rapidly changing social and political climate.
HBO broadcast the film in various formats: two 3-hour chunks that correspond to Millennium Approaches and Perestroika , further divided into six 1-hour "chapters" that roughly correspond to an act or two of each of these plays; the first three chapters "Bad News," "In Vitro," and "The Messenger" were initially broadcast on December 7, , to international acclaim, with the final three chapters "Stop Moving!
Angels in America was the most-watched made-for-cable film in , and earned much critical acclaim and numerous accolades: at the 56th Primetime Emmy Awards , it became the first and currently only program in Emmy history to win in every major eligible category, and won all four acting categories.
It also won in all five eligible categories at the 61st Golden Globe Awards. As disease and loneliness ravage Prior, guilt invades Louis.
Both Pitt and Cohn are in the closet : Pitt out of shame and religious turmoil, Cohn to preserve his power and image. Pitt's wife Harper is strung out on Valium , causing her to hallucinate constantly sometimes jointly with Prior during his fever dreams and she longs to escape from her sexless marriage. An angel with ulterior motives commands Prior to become a prophet. Prior is helped in his decision by Joe's mother, Hannah, and Belize, a close friend and drag queen.
Joe leaves his wife and goes to live with Louis, but the relationship does not work out because of ideological differences. As the film continues, the lost souls come together to create bonds of love, loss, and loneliness and, in the end, discover forgiveness and overcome abandonment.
Cary Brokaw, executive producer of the series, worked for over ten years to bring the stage production to television, having first read it in , before its first production. In , Al Pacino committed to playing the role of Roy Cohn. In the meantime, a number of directors, including Robert Altman , were part of the project. Subsequently, Kushner tried squeezing the play into a feature film, at which he eventually failed, realizing there was "literally too much plot," and settling for the TV miniseries format.
Brokaw gave Mike Nichols the script while he was working with him on Wit starring Emma Thompson , who also co-adapted the play of the same title. The principal cast, including Meryl Streep , Pacino, and Thompson, having recently worked with Nichols, was immediately assembled by him.
The Heaven sequence was shot at Hadrian's Villa , the Roman archaeological complex at Tivoli, Italy, dating early 2nd century. Special effects in the series were by Richard Edlund Star Wars trilogy , who created the two important Angel visitation sequences, as well as the opening sequence wherein the angel at the Bethesda Fountain opens its eyes in the end, signifying her "coming to life".
The critical consensus reads "In Angels of America , writer Tony Kushner and director Mike Nichols imaginatively and artistically deliver heavy, vital subject matter, colorfully imparted by a stellar cast. In , Angels in America broke the record previously held by Roots for the most Emmys awarded to a miniseries in a single year by winning 11 awards from 21 nominations.
It also joined Caesar's Hour , in , as the only series to win all four main acting categories in one night. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The Recording Academy. Archived from the original on March 8, Retrieved November 12, Jones Angels in America". The essential HBO reader. University Press of Kentucky.
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