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Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes (Angels in America #1-2)

4.28  ·  Rating Details ·  10,917 Ratings  ·  333 Reviews
In two full-length plays--Millennium Approaches and Perestroika--Kushner tells the story of a handful of people trying to make sense of the world. Prior is a man living with AIDS whose lover Louis has left him and become involved with Joe, an ex-Mormon and political conservative whose wife, Harper, is slowly having a nervous breakdown. These stories are contrasted with tha ...more
Paperback, Complete Edition; Movie Tie-In Edition, 304 pages
Published November 1st 2003 by Theatre Communications Group (first published May 1st 1993)
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Community Reviews

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Jan 26, 2008 Brett rated it it was amazing
"Night flight to San Francisco; chase the moon across America. God, it’s been years since I was on a plane. When we hit 35,000 feet we’ll have reached the tropopause, the great belt of calm air, as close as I’ll ever get to the ozone. I dreamed we were there. The plane leapt the tropopause, the safe air, and attained the outer rim, the ozone, which was ragged and torn, patches of it threadbare as old cheesecloth, and that was frightening. But I saw something that only I could see because of my a ...more
Jan 26, 2008 Josh rated it it was amazing
Shelves: joshbooks
Reading these plays aloud in a high school class created more than a few awkward moments.
I don't know if this play had its intended effects on me; because I was born in the 90s, HIV/AIDS has always been a reality permanently etched in the back of my mind. Because my political views lean heavily to the left, I find the recent trend of Reagan worshipping revolting. Because I live in the epicenter of Mormondom, I can poke holes in the "Mormons are the new Jews" motif that Kushner loves exploring so much. The sudden shifts Kushner is trying to articulate and rationalize have been a part ...more
Aug 27, 2010 Jamie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2010, drama
I begin this review with a quote: "Things fall apart / the center cannot hold." A colleague pointed out the resonances of Yeats' poem 'The Second Coming' in Kushner's 'Angels,' and I had to agree with his fantastic observation. This is a drama set in Reaganite America that images a world seemingly coming to an implosive and horrifying end. God has literally abandoned us (evidently, during the great San Francisco earthquake), and the national and historical crises alluded to--the onset of the AID ...more
Dusty Myers
Sep 26, 2007 Dusty Myers rated it it was amazing
Angels in America is seven hours long. You need to break the two parts up over the course of a weekend, probably. And it might be the first and it might be the only gay epic ever written. And this is why it's one of the most important books I've read. Luckily it's also one of the best.

Its project is a tough one: look at the rise of AIDS in the culture of Reagan-era New York City as experienced by three men who identify as gay, one Mormon who's oriented sexually toward other men, and Roy Cohn—who
I find it exceptionally challenging to write about this play. Partly because I've never read anything like it before (a "Gay Fantasia on National Themes") and partly because I feel like the play is dealing with so many themes at once in such a short space that it becomes overwhelming.

The most explicit theme is sexuality. There are two characters in the play who are struggling to deal with the fact that they are gay. One married (with a woman) Mormon man, and another ruthless lawyer who refuses
Nov 07, 2010 Manda rated it it was amazing
I absolutely love this play. It explores the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the 80s, particularly its effect on the gay community. But you don’t have to be a gay man with AIDS living in 1985 to relate to it. This play reaches out on a very basic human level. It’s about dealing with loss, love, sickness, regret, hope, politics, betrayal, sex, religion, death, confusion, hate…it’s about facing yourself and trying to deal with what you find there.

Angels is hands down my favorite play. It’s writt
Apr 12, 2015 Kate rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-for-school
“This disease will be the end of many of us, but not nearly all, and the dead will be commemorated and will struggle on with the living, and we are not going away. We won't die secret deaths anymore. The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come.”
I read this in April of 2015 as a way to break up the rather lengthy read of Sophie's Choice because I wanted something that wouldn't take me long to read. I had previously viewed the six-hours and something minutes 2003 HBO tel
Jun 29, 2012 Julia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, plays
so good, guys, SO GOOD. this was pretty much the most compelling thing i've read in a while, from plot to themes to characters (i haven't read something in so long where i've just loved every single character, every single distinct person. i especially love louis, even though or maybe because he's such a shithead, or rather a guilt-wracked neurotic jew. which makes him sound like a type, but he's not just a type, that's just his personality as advertised). i'm talking generalities here and i thi ...more
May 02, 2011 Kristen rated it liked it
EDIT: I read this book again for another class and I appreciated it much more the second time. I picked up much more of what Kushner was trying to communicate. We also had the opportunity to meet Tony Kushner as a part of this class. Being able to speak with him about the play's themes and what he was trying to accomplish gave me a new appreciation for what the play was trying to accomplish.

FIRST REVIEW: I know this play won the Pulitzer, but I just don't get it. It gets a lot of hype, and ever
Nov 25, 2016 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt, adult, university
[EDIT: half a month later, I am bumping this up to a 4.5 stars. I can't get quite shake this book, I still feel like it's clinging on to me. The characters, their stories. I miss them. This is the sign of a quality book. Never know, it might some day get bumped up to a round 5 stars. I guess we'll see.]

4.25 stars. This gave me a good ride. Absolutely tore into my heartstrings at times... Oh, Prior...

We had an awesome discussion in my tutorial about it; I feel as if we could talk for hours and ho
Aug 09, 2011 Robert rated it did not like it
This will be my first negative review. I am unsure what my strongest point of contentment is. I do not feel that reading this is playwright form does this great work any justice.

Having witnessed this beautiful work of art in living form, this book failed on almost all levels to achieve what the live version conquered.

So my advice, burn the book. Do not waist your time reading these pages. Instead rent the movie.... or even better still see it live. I will have to research if it is still being p
Jan 23, 2014 L. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jest to absolutnie i niezaprzeczalnie jeden z najlepszych dramatów (jedna z najlepszych książek, jedna z najlepszych rzeczy, jedno z najlepszych dzieł), jaki przeczytałam w życiu. Jaki widziałam w teatrze. Jaki oglądałam dzięki HBO. To jest rzecz kompletna i doskonała i wzgardzam każdym, kto wzgardza "Aniołami".
Te historie, ten język, ten humor, ten styl, ten nastrój, te główne motywy i to powierzchowne oderwanie od rzeczywistości, które tak naprawdę jest totalnym jej przeniknięciem i skrupulat
Nelson Maddaloni
Dec 05, 2015 Nelson Maddaloni rated it it was amazing
A most excellent set of plays by Tony Kushner. One of the landmark works in LGBT fiction and theater, but even if you find yourself disagreeing, for whatever reason, with what's being said, the prose and sheer ambition of the work is enough to keep people reading or watching. Kushner's scope and ambition is marvelous and the sheer audacity of the plays are incredible. Roy Cohn is one of the most compelling characters in theater, in my opinion, and one reason to definitely read the play but the n ...more
Feb 14, 2013 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Revolutionary writing about the start of the AIDs epidemic, but I wonder whether because it aims so hard, it becomes a little lost within itself. I was thinking whether this deserved 5 stars, but feel that I would need to watch this play. It is a play that needs to be performed, but is so difficult to perform.
Nov 11, 2010 Yamrat rated it really liked it
This play is utterly gutwrenching. I've never felt more conflicted, sick and in love with a bunch of characters before.
One of the best books I've had the pleasure to read.
Rambling Reader
maybe 5 stars?
Sean Meehan
Jul 04, 2016 Sean Meehan rated it it was amazing
I finally knocked this off of my "things I should have read a long time ago" list this week. It was an incredible read that exceeded my already high expectations.
I was in the unique position of having read some scholarship about this play before I read it. While I was working on my thesis and trying to pin down some sort of definition of camp, I read some work by the linguist Keith Harvey, who used this and other Kushner plays to demonstrate how camp operates in conversations among gay people. I
Jan 14, 2017 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
WOW. So, ok, there's a reason this won the Pulitzer. 4 stars as a reading experience, but a good stage production of this would easily be a 5-star deal. My thoughts are an incoherent web of half-understandings at the moment, so I'll be trying to trace those threads soon in a video review. In the meantime, go read these two plays and have all of the thoughts (especially the half-formed ones - because, really, if something is simple enough for you to understand immediately, how worthy is it of you ...more
Kevin Hosein
Aug 29, 2012 Kevin Hosein rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"We have reached a verdict, your honor. This man's heart is deficient. He loves, but his love is worth nothing."

"Angels in America" is a two-part play written by Tony Kushner based around the lives of numerous homosexual men, the ladies in their lives and their brushes with celestial beings, ghosts of the past and parallel realms. The first part, titled Millennium Approaches, was deemed so superb by the Pulitzer committee that they did not even wait until the debut of the second part for them to
Peyton Van amburgh
another paper I found from college! another

In Angels in America, characters are "haunted" by spirits of persons both dead and alive, including ghosts and angels. Characters intersect through dreams in situations that could never be possible in reality, and yet these characters, complete strangers to each other, tap into each other's consciousness in ways unfamiliar and shocking to the characters themselves. The spiritual and surreal quality of the play establishes the revelation that no on
Dec 22, 2016 Meredith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays
This work is much too complex for me to be able to fully grasp the totality of the playwright's intention. At least, on the basis of one reading for entertainment purposes. I feel this work needs a proper book club discussion at the very least, or an English scholar's thesis to read along with it or any setting which would provide an opportunity for different perspectives to contribute a broader view and a richer understanding of the multiple themes explored within its pages.

As an actor I was p
Brian Murray
This review is long overdue...

Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes is one of the greatest works of literature in the world. Yes, that is very very bold, but nonetheless true.

This 7-hour play is almost impossible to summarize, but I will do my best. It follows approximately 10 characters, all of which I would credit as the lead, throughout the AIDS epidemic of the mid 80s. First are Prior and Louis, a steady but slightly incompatible couple that are shaken by Prior's AIDS diagnosi
Feb 01, 2011 Matt rated it it was amazing
this comment isn't necessarily related to this play specifically, but my roommate and i were having a discussion about why angels resonated so much. her somewhat abrupt response was, "well, because we fetishize that time period." to which i say, yes, perhaps; perhaps my love for this text comes out of my fetishization of queer, coalition politics in the 80s, politics that came out of the clarity of death, when the political lines were (more) clearly drawn, when race was powerfully asserted withi ...more
Jul 31, 2013 Aban rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
No one could expect me to write a scholastic review on this gigantic play when I'm required to have an astronomical knowledge of history, politics, religion, culture, philosophy and literature. So just let's have a short symphony of feelings.
Again Judaism, and again its alter ego, the dark world and what a rich theme it is to explore. Definitely this is a play which can’t be read in just one sitting and I really enjoyed the difficulty of its style, though very hard to finish. Every time I picke
Jul 11, 2016 Anne rated it really liked it
Tony Kushner spoke at my college graduation. I wish I had a copy of his remarks, because while I remember that they were incredibly brief (about 90 seconds, I think) and incredibly pithy and insightful, I can't at all remember what, exactly, he said. I find it interesting to remember that now, having read Angels for the first time. He is, without a doubt, an incredibly talented writer and observer of the human condition, but pithy he is not. I don't mean that as a knock on the play, mostly just ...more
Max Davine
Aug 08, 2016 Max Davine rated it liked it
Angels in America divides me. On the one hand there is a complex, layered and rich story which was the first of its kind and, in many ways, remains the only, and that is exactly what it claims to be: a gay fantasia on national themes. So compellingly written, so immersive, that one passes through six hours worth of script without realizing an hour has passed. There is so much to take in, and that's why an essay is the only form of critique which can do it justice. However, there is a firm elemen ...more
Jul 25, 2008 John rated it really liked it
Shelves: theater, nyc
I picked this up because as I was walking past Bethesda Fountain with some friends recently one turned to it and said “this was in Angels in America,” and I had no idea what she was talking about (I know it by reputation, but that’s about it.) I guess don’t need much of a reason to pick up a book.

Angels in America is a fun and generally moving read, though I didn’t get in to certain of the more important characters (Louis and Joe, for instance – Louis because his reasons for leaving Prior didn’
Dec 30, 2008 Rachel rated it it was amazing
A unique masterpiece of modern theater. With eminently successful audacity and a finely tuned theatrical sensibility, playwriter Tony Kushner weaves together the lives of a group of divergent and fascinating characters as the deal with the AIDS crisis, internalized homophobia, the Reagan administration, the spectre of Ethel Rosenberg, and the coming of apocalypse, among other things. Tony Kushner's writing is breathtakingly poetic and frequently hilarious, and the play offers greatly rewarding r ...more
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Tony Kushner is an award-winning American playwright most famous for his play Angels in America, for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. He is also co-author, along with Eric Roth, of the screenplay of the 2005 film Munich, which was directed by Steven Spielberg and earned Kushner (along with Roth) an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
More about Tony Kushner...

Other Books in the Series

Angels in America (2 books)
  • Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches
  • Angels in America, Part Two: Perestroika

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“Harper: In your experience of the world. How do people change?

Mormon Mother: Well it has something to do with God so it's not very nice.

God splits the skin with a jagged thumbnail from throat to belly and then plunges a huge filthy hand in, he grabs hold of your bloody tubes and they slip to evade his grasp but he squeezes hard, he insists, he pulls and pulls till all your innards are yanked out and the pain! We can't even talk about that. And then he stuffs them back, dirty, tangled and torn. It's up to you to do the stitching.

Harper: And then up you get. And walk around.

Mormon Mother: Just mangled guts pretending.

Harper: That's how people change.”
“I hate America. I hate this country. It’s just big ideas, and stories, and people dying, and people like you. The white cracker who wrote the national anthem knew what he was doing. He set the word 'free' to a note so high nobody can reach it. That was deliberate. Nothing on earth sounds less like freedom to me. You come to room 1013 over at the hospital, I'll show you America. Terminal, crazy and mean. I live in America, that’s hard enough, I don’t have to love it. You do that. Everybody’s got to love something.” 65 likes
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