Jamie's Reviews > Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes

Angels in America by Tony Kushner
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Aug 27, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: read-in-2010, drama
Read from November 25 to December 02, 2010 — I own a copy

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 AIDS epidemic being the most present, but also the fall of the Soviet Union, the infection of Reagan-era individualism, the legacy of the Cold War, the Rosenberg trial--profoundly intersect with the personal crises that provide the play's sometimes overwhelming sense of trauma.

Roy & Prior are each wrecked by AIDS; Harper is a pill-popping agoraphobe; there are closets galore; there are pervasive narratives of abandonment (emblematized in the one committed by God) and of comings-home; of religious doubt & the terror of change--with its corollary, the terror of stasis. There's also, as evidenced by figures like Harper, Joe, Louis, and Prior, the terror of being with--and being isolated from--other people. Roy Cohn is both a historical figure and a kind of literary master narrative--as my professor remarked, Roy reads almost as analogous to Milton's Satan. He's the most despicable character, ostensibly the villain of the play, but ultimately also becomes an intensely compelling one to follow.

With all of this said, I simply have to remark that this is, first and foremost, an absolutely magnificent work of literature. It's beautifully written, refreshingly literary (without being as pretentious as I've been in this review), often laugh-out-loud hilarious, and emotionally affecting in a way I haven't experienced with a fictional work in a long time. Read it. Seriously, READ. IT. For your betterment as a human being, give the play a shot. It's just radiant.
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message 1: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Still such a great play. There was a neat article on nytimes.com about its big revival several days ago.


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