A Sound of Hovering Wings

Angels in America arrives buoyed by hype, but rises on its own power

Likewise Joe, the other character who's wrestling with demons. David Whalen plays the ambivalent Mormon as a cipher, too benign and ordinary. Although both he and Louis are the mixed-up ones, the conflicted and deserting lovers, they both lack that final oomph that pushes a negative character over the brink into humanity and a candidate for our sympathies. Joe's blanked himself out, willfully, in his attempt to smother the part in him he believes is sinful; we feel that blank, but that's all we're left with.

Still, haunting and visionary and loopy, Angels' portrayals of love adrift enters the audiences' dreams, especially the portrayal of poor, unhappy Harper, who feels so forsaken by her Mormon husband but doesn't know why. Annalee Jeffries plays her character indelibly, her Harper padding about in thick knit socks, grinning irrepressibly as she brings a child's courage to bear on her very adult problems, giddily zooming through her hallucinations, yet pulling back to impishly remark, "Wow, I must've really slipped the tether, huh?" And as Roy Cohn, James Black is stooped and amazing in his megalomaniacal keenness. Alley favorite Black not only brings his signature loudmouth, black-heartedness to the role, but as he gets sick he becomes a very ashen, pathetic yet strong black-hearted loudmouth.

Angels are in the air these days. Fitting neatly into America's latest Zeitgeist, angels have seized the popular (and commercial) imagination, from cherubim shower curtains to archangel stationery, as well as the loftier strata, such as Wim Wenders lyrical film about angels in Berlin, Wings of Desire. People point to this angelic fad as a quickening of spiritual longing in America, which it may or may not be. But it certainly presents fallow ground for Tony Kushner's incantation. A play as far-ranging and poetic and dreamlike as Angels has a chance to seep, like dry ice crawling under a door, into the playgoer's subconscious, take up residence, put down roots, enjoin him or her to return for part two, Perestroika. The interlocking tales in Angels in America: Millennium Approaches weave themselves into our lives till we can almost hear the rustling of angel wings outside the window, smell the succor of angel breath when panicked and distraught, feel the angel body present in our lover in the hour of close need and dark times. And, as shown so evocatively by Angels in America, these are dark times indeed.

Angels in America:
Millennium Approaches plays through June 11 at the Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Avenue, 228-8421.

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help