Chicago Theatre Review
COURT THEATRE SOARS WITH ANGELS IN AMERICA
COURT THEATRE PRESENT: ANGELS IN AMERICA:
Under the direction of Charles Newell, Court Theatre presented the Tony Award play Angels in America Millennium Approaches and Perestroika. By combining both plays in one day we are talking seven and a half hours in the theatre ,with a 2 hour break for dinner. My recommendation, do this in two days to really understand the play and not be overwhelmed by all that is going on. Angels is a gay fantasy based on national themes during the 1980’s, and the story of seven people and how their lives became interwoven with the crisis of the AIDS epidemic.
Court Theatre has put together an outstanding cast. Rob Lindley plays Prior Walter the main character of both stories who struggles with the loss of love and the world after being diagnosed with AIDS. Eddie Bennett plays Louis Ironson a hard headed idealist who dumps Prior when he is diagnosed with the disease and then seduces Joe Pitt (played by Geoff Packard) a newly married , closeted Mormon lawyer who works in the law office of Roy Cohn (brilliantly played by Larry Yando). Cohen is a famous lawyer who got his start back in the 1950’s during the McCarthy trials and helped prosecute Ethel Rosenberg , who’s ghost haunts him during his dying days The one true comic effect of the play comes from Belize (Michael Pogue) the male nurse and best friend of Prior Walter. Belize adds humor to a play that can be depressing to say the least. At times it makes you want to reach for the prozac due to some hard writing about the AIDS epidemic. Hollis Resnik plays Hannah Pitt the mother of Joe Pitt who comes from Utah to take care of his pill popping wife Harper Pitt played by Heidi Kettenring . The angel in the play is Mary Beth Fisher who has the look of a true angel and floats above the stage very convincing.
When I first saw Angels 15 years ago the staging was simple, But John Culbert has created a set that is flawless and keeps your attention for the entire duration of the show.
This play has a new ending that Tony Kushner wrote several years ago when he brought the play back to Broadway. The problem is he needed to cut one of the four possible endings out. By adding an extra 20 minutes it becomes a bit too long and you may lose your audience during that time. My only wish is that Mr Kushner would have tried to add some true facts to the play after 20 years. Instead of putting the blame on the President of the United States for not doing enough to solve the epidemic, maybe mention that the U.S. Government spent $155 million in the early days 1982 to 1984 and $5.7 billion during 1984 to 1989 on this epidemic. But then it would take some of the drama out of the play if you didn’t have a fall guy.
But even with those small faults this is a must see play. Relevant today with the same problems were still having today with AIDS as it was 25 years ago. But I still recommend breaking it up over two days.
Angels plays till June 3rd 2012.
Frank Meccia: Co-Host of Chicago Theatre Review