Angels in America part 2: Perestroika picks up where the first part left off. Roy Cohen is in the hospital with AIDS and is soon surprised when his nurse turns out to be Belize, the drag queen best friend of Prior Walter. Prior is out of the hospital, still dealing with his AIDS and his visions of Angels. Louis, Prior’s ex-boyfriend, is now seeing Joe, the mormon clerk of a conservative judge who is still coming to terms with his homosexuality. Harper, Joe’s wife, is coming down from her Valium induced hallucinations while dealing with Joe’s mother moving to New York to set things right.
Perestroika Arguably Stronger Than Millenium Approaches
HE SAID:While the two parts of Angels in America are truly parts of a whole play, Perestroika (the title of part 2) stands as a stronger piece than part one, in my eyes. To me, the whole play does a great deal of set up and deep character development in Part 1 so that you really have connected to the characters making the events of Part 2 even more powerful. Continuing to explore the themes of sex, sexuality, love, and death from the first part, Part 2 also explores a sense of redemption and self-empowerment as it ultimately ends on a positive note.
SHE SAID: I’m a bit torn as to whether Part 1 or 2 is stronger. I find the character and story development in Part 2 to be strong, and I like that it builds on the success of a great Part 1, but I also find Part 2 to be a little more disjointed, taking the fantasy elements a little bit farther than Part 1. Although at times these enhance the story-telling, at other times they can seem to distract from it. Overall, the two parts together form an epic piece of theatre that is impressively barely contained in two long plays.
Uhlenhopp and Johnson Find New Dimension in Powerful Scenes
HE SAID: The scene where Louis confronts Joe regarding the judicial decisions he has written as clerk for a conservative judge is one of the best scenes written in American theatre. Not only is the scene filled with tension from conflicting political and emotional politics which ultimately boil over, but it also is the scene that still sounds most relevent to today. It’s an incredibly complex scene for an actor and for Andrew Uhlenhopp as Louis it is the best moment in both parts. While he is great throughout, in this scene he speaks the words and conveys all of the emotion so naturally, it was if I had walked in on his private conversation.
SHE SAID: I agree that scene was exceptional. I was a huge fan of Uhlenhopp as Louis after Part 1, so following him on his journey was really rewarding (in a somewhat sad way). I also thought that Haley Johnson really grew into a different presence as Harper in this second part. Because her character found some release from anxiety, I felt some release as well, and I was really onboard with her (pun intended) by the end of play.
Tyrell Rae and Supporting Characters Stand Out in Part 2
HE SAID:While Uhlenhopp may have shone in that scene, it was Tyrell D. Rae as Belize who shone throughout. While I felt Roy Cohen yelled a bit too much in Part 1, he met his match in the powerful and quick witted Belize. They balanced each other well in some exciting verbal sparring matches. Rae was hysterical and his fierceness kept me engaged, but the real beauty was his mixture of the character’s strong and soft sides.
SHE SAID: The supporting characters also really helped make Part 2 fall into place. I continued to enjoy Michelle A. Grimes, particularly as Joe’s Mother, and her relationship with Prior was really wonderful to watch blossom. Crystal Verdon had a powerful (and sometimes funny) presence as the Angel, although I think it’s hard for the audience to directly connect with that character, it’s meant to be a somewhat distant force.
Two Parts of a Whole Create Strong Message at Perfect Time
THEY SAID: We found Millenium Approaches, which opened at Vintage a week before Perestroika to be quite strong (review HERE), and part two is equally as strong, if not more so. What stands out is one quote, “the world only turns forward”. It’s almost as if Kushner was starting his own “It Gets Better” Campaign. This concept endows the audience with a sense of inevitable progress and confidence to embrace the truth of the present to make a better future. With gay marriage undoubtedly headed to the Supreme Court and a recent rash of gay teen suicides, those ideas could not come at a better time and we applaud Vintage Theatre for their boldness in presenting this story.
For more a full plot synopsis and history of SHOW, see the wikipedia article. Angels in America presented by Vintage Theatre Company plays through November 7. Click the banner below for tickets and more information.