I caught part II of Angels in America at Forum Theatre this weekend, and collectively, the two parts of the show represent the best theatre I’ve seen so far in DC. The acting was really, really phenomenal almost without exception, and the set and costume work was spare, interesting, innovative.
I think it’s such an interesting piece of theatre. What I love about what Kushner did–and what I strive to do in my own work when appropriate–is that he doesn’t shy away from the complexity of the issues in the play. Of course, Roy Cohn is as close to an Iago as you’ll get this side of Shakespeare and he seems to have few if any redeeming qualities (witness his duping of Ethel Rosenberg just before he dies, and then his delight at duping her). But Roy Cohn is also a character with a clear and consistent moral compass.
It would have been easy to write Joe, Harper, and Hannah Pitt off as fruity Mormon stereotypes, but I think he really gets into the struggle in Joe’s coming out. But Hannah Pitt is a tougher character. Becaue Kushner was pushing an agenda in the show, and because Hannah really stood outside of the agenda, he could have written her as a real unfeeling villain. But he gets inside her skin, understands what her values are and why she believes what she does (without judging the beliefs, as she so sternly reminds Prior Walter not to do when he criticizes her).
It’s a really long show. But I’ll tell you, it moves so quickly and doesn’t have 1 extra word in it, 1 extra gesture. It needs to be six hours long. It’s doing something. And it does it perfectly.