REVIEW (Pulp): U-M’s can’t-miss production of ‘Angels in America, Part I: Millennium Approaches’

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The cast of U-M’s phenomenal production of Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America, Part I: Millennium Approaches.” (Photo by Kyle Prue)

It’s amazing how, when a brilliant script is masterfully executed, three and a half hours can seem to pass in the blink of an eye.

Yet that’s the experience you’ll have if you’re lucky enough to catch the University of Michigan Department of Theatre and Drama production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Part 1: Millennium Approaches — which is so terrific that it’ll remind you all over again why the play has earned its status as a timeless masterpiece.

For the first chapter of this two-part, epic, Pulitzer Prize-winning play premiered back in 1991 at San Francisco’s Eureka Theatre and told an era-defining story set in New York City in the mid-1980s – the height of the AIDS epidemic. We’re introduced to three sets of characters whose lives intersect: Second Circuit Court word processor Louis (Jesse Aaronson) and his boyfriend Prior Walter (Jeffrey James Fox), whose health is rapidly worsening; a judge’s chief clerk, and a transplanted-from-Utah Mormon, Joe Pitt (Peter Donahue), and his hallucinating, Valium-popping wife, Harper (Savanna Crosby); and powerful right-wing lawyer/macher Roy Cohn (Sam Dubin), who pushes Joe to accept a position in the Justice Department in Washington so as to have a sympathetic ally in high places.

Joe’s and Louis’ paths initially cross at work, in a public bathroom, as Louis is crying over his struggle to stay with Prior as AIDS ravages his body. In that moment, Louis voices his assumption regarding Joe’s homosexuality — which Joe denies, citing his marriage as proof, but he’s visibly rattled by the observation. Harper, meanwhile, spends her days alone in the couple’s apartment, obsessing over the Earth’s deteriorating ozone layer, dreaming of traveling to Antarctica, and struggling to figure out why her husband goes on so many long walks and shows no sexual interest in her. Cohn is enraged by charges of ethical misconduct, as well as his own AIDS diagnosis. And Prior, finally, finds himself in and out of the hospital, facing his illness and his mortality alone. READ THE REST HERE

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