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Angels in America - starring Andrew Garfield & Nathan Lane Totally intriguing and vastly entertaining





Oscar E. Moore “from the rear mezzanine” for TalkEntertainment.com

An almost perfect alignment of writing, casting, design and direction have resulted in a monumental eight hour, double bill theatrical marathon. It is a fantastical achievement.

First produced on Broadway in 1993 Tony Kushner’s epic MILLENNIUM APPROACHES was soon followed by PERESTROIKA. Last year both were presented in tandem at The National Theatre helmed by the brilliant director Marianne Elliot who also directed WAR HORSE and THE CURIOUS INCIDENT…

Both parts are being performed in repertory at the Neil Simon Theatre for a limited engagement through June 30th. Brave souls can see both in one day with a short dinner break to give theatergoers a chance to catch their breath and refresh their brain to take in and digest part two. It is well worth the effort.

Quibble all you want about its length but Tony Kushner has a lot on his very intelligent and clever mind and a lot to say about a lot of things. And he is not shy about sharing his intense thoughts in his GAY FANTASIA ON NATIONAL THEMES. Although at times it can be confusing and in need of a trim.

AIDS is no longer a death sentence as it once was. But in 1985 when this epic begins little was known about this plague and Prior Walter (a phenomenal Andrew Garfield) a very gay and very scared drag queen has discovered a lesion on his chest indicating Kaposi’s sarcoma. He has a lover Louis (an excellent James McArdle) who is even more scared and abandons him.

We meet the odious, vicious and self-important Republican Roy Cohn (Nathan Lane) while he is being his nastiest on the telephone. He will eventually die of AIDS that he insists is liver cancer. This closet queen is attempting to groom his protégé Joe Pitt (Lee Pace), a Mormon lawyer to move to Washington D.C. But his valium addicted wife Harper (Denise Gough) does not want to go. They have marital problems as he grapples valiantly and unsuccessfully with his homosexual urges.

You will meet Belize (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) a no nonsense, compassionate nurse who marches to his own tune and is not afraid to confront Mr. Cohn or to pilfer some of his hard to get medications for those who need it and cannot afford it.

And the versatile Susan Brown who plays a variety of characters including Ethel Rosenberg who sits beaming as Roy Cohn suffers an agonizing death.

All is not doom and gloom as Mr. Kushner has a sharp and wicked wit. Mr. Nathan Lane is at his best when slinging the barbs that shoot out of Cohn’s mouth. But he is Nathan Lane. The personality and the voice and the perfect comic timing that is unmistakable. Whereas all the other actors become their characters, living and breathing and honest and human Mr. Lane remains Mr. Lane. In his more quiet scenes he kind of fades into the woodwork. It is a shame as everyone else is first rate.

And the Angel. Amanda Lawrence soars as the frightening almost prehistoric bedraggled apparition that visits Prior, announcing that he is to be the messenger. She is held aloft by humans that help operate her wings that have seen better eons.

The direction is superb by Marianne Elliott. Part one makes use of turntables in isolated cubicles lit by colored neon that make for a fluid cinematic transition to the many locations. Part two opens up as do the characters. No turntables but a group of helpers scurrying around moving set pieces that is quite eerie. As eerie as the second part is dreamlike theatrical. Sensational set design by Ian MacNeil.

All this has some fabulous incidental music – symphonic and portentous with appropriate lighting by Paule Constable.

What one remembers most are the many truly important themes presented that somehow inter-connect with Mr. Kushner’s intellect and humor: Republicans, Mormons, abandonment, guilt, religion, McCarthyism and above all his humanity in dealing with AIDS.

Andrew Garfield’s sensitive yet fierce performance will be talked about and will be remembered forever. From his Norma Desmond’s shock at seeing his new diseased ridden self to his slow and painful decline from the disease to his fright and bewilderment of the Angel he gives us courage to go on. Whatever cards we are dealt.

Totally intriguing and vastly entertaining.

www.angelsbroadway.com

Photo: Brinkhoff & Mogenburg

Visit www.oscaremoore.com for additional photos


  
04-03-18