THEATER PREVIEW: "Angels in America" Descends on the Haymarket Theatre
Editor's note: The video below was shot and produced by Ladd Wendelin.
By Ladd Wendelin
One of the most powerful, gripping and compelling works of American drama is "Angels in America." Written by Tony Kushner, it won Tony Awards for Best Play in 1993 ("Millenium Approaches") and 1994 ("Peristroika"), and the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Drama before becoming a crtically acclaimed HBO miniseries (directed by Mike Nichols and starring Al Pacino and Meryll Streep).
It's an epic tale of time and space; a measure of emotional distance between two people, the ravages of an epidemic, and the invitable clash between the sacred, the profane and a would-be prophet. Can a play be both timley and timeless, sad and hopeful, about anything and everything? The answer is yes, and it's called "Angels in America."
“Angels in America, Part One — Millennium Approaches” opens this spring as Flatwater Shakespeare joins forces with The Haymarket Theatre in its newly restored space at 803 Q St. "Part One" of Kushner’s modern classic will be staged this year, with Part Two following in 2012. Described by the author as “A Gay Fantasia on American Themes,” this Pulitzer Prize-winning play examines 1980s America with warm humor, savage wit, soaring imagination, heartbreak and hope.
The show opens Thursday, March 31. Performances continue Friday to Sunday, April 1 to 3, and Thursday to Sunday, April 7 to 10 and 14 to 17. All show times are 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors and $10 for students. Call 402.477.2600 for reservations.
The play focuses on three relationships: Louis and Prior, who have just learned that Prior has AIDS; Harper and her husband Joe, a Mormon couple living in New York City who take separate refuge in pills and the closet; and Joe and his would-be mentor, Roy Cohn – the powerful lawyer whose historic career was aligned with Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan. Their lives are uprooted by illness, drug dependency, religious doctrine and political ambition, and are explored with honesty, humanity and great flair.
Director Bob Hall said he's proud that Flatwater Shakespeare and the Haymarket Theatre are co-presenting an “astonishing play” that “reveals how the AIDS epidemic, devastating as it was, focused this country’s attention on a part of society it often preferred to ignore.”
“It was one of the first dramas dominated by gay characters to receive overwhelming response from mainstream Broadway audiences – gay, straight or whatever,” Hall continued. “The play’s characters crackle with life, even in the midst of death. Clichés are stripped away or reworked to create a memorable cast of dramatic, neurotic, tragic, villainous, prejudiced, fearful and generous people: a cross section, not only of gay culture, but of America itself.”
Hall has gathered together an ensemble equal to the task of bringing this memorable cast to life. Nathan Weiss and Andy Dillehay are featured as Louis and Prior. Summer Widhalm and Matt Lukasiewicz play Harper and Joe. Richard Nielsen appears as Kushner’s fictionalized but true-to-life version of Roy Cohn. Other performers include Flatwater Shakespeare associates Tom Bolin, Mary Douglass, Elizabeth Govaerts, Daniel Kubert and Dustin Witte.
Cast member Kubert has organized a symposium, "... in the wake of the magic bullet.", based on first-hand experiences dealing with the issues raised in this groundbreaking play. Discussions will be held immediately after the April 1st, 2nd, 8th, 9th, 15th and 16th performances. "... in the wake of the magic bullet." will take place at The Haymarket Theatre on Sunday, April 10 at 2 p.m. Panelists for these discussions will include representatives from the University of Nebraska Medical Center HIV Specialty Care Clinic, the Nebraska AIDS Project, First Plymouth Congregational Church, the Unitarian Church of Lincoln and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Support for this production of “Angels in America” has been provided by the Cooper Foundation and the Lincoln Arts Council. For more information, go to flatwatershakespeare.org, flatwatershakespeare.blogspot.com or haymarkettheatre.org.
BONUS: Listen to Danny Kubert describe his first memories of "Angels in America" and detail the goal of the symposiums, which will be held after every Friday and Saturday performance. Danny is awesome.