I was lucky enough to buy my copy of this play as part of the programme for a touring stage production of 'Angels in America', a production which I loved. Being able to read the text having seen the play was wonderful - Kushner's writing is extremely funny and moving, and just seeing the play you can't hope to remember all the great lines and moments - and I would strongly recomment this edition as it prints both parts side by side.
The play is dramatic and energetic, and this comes through in the text - readers may be a little astounded with the variety and speed of Kushner's scenes - the Antarctic, a hospital, an office, heaven; you name it and this play's probably got it - but this really does work on stage, and makes for an exciting awnd compelling plot
In its scope the play is impressive; it deals with relationships, death, AIDs and homosexuality in 1980s America by creating sympathetic characters (even the unfortunately real life and really unpleasant character of Roy Cohn gains maybe a few grains of sympathy at the end; it's worth noticing how often the stage directions for his speech advocated a 'scared' delivery) which recreate huge promlems on a smaller, human scale. It also takes its subject matter to a more epic level by introducing the guardian angels of the earth, and dealing with spirituality and religion in an increasingly atheistic society. Although set now twenty years in the past, the play still has a great deal of contemporary relevance, and offers a lot to learn on many levels.
At times when reading, the play may feel rather more pretentious than epic, particularly the ending which seems rather saccharine, so while I advocate reading this play - it should move you, make you think and entertain you, what more can you ask? - I would also urge you to remember it is a play, and to seek out a production of it (there is a film, available from Amazon, but whether it is any good, I don't know). Even more than most plays, Kushner's work cries out for the stage, turning saccharine ending into a profound and tear jerking climax, allowing you to fully enjoy his theatricality and bringing this complex work to life. So keep your eyes peeled and an ear to the ground until you find a production. But until then, read the script and enjoy it that way.
In my eyes. The best play I have ever read/come across. The style, the way it is written, the techniques, the plot...all of it is amazing. It is funny, quite rude in a lot of places but also shows the importance of political matters during the time in which this play is set. I have used this play so many times and fallen in love with it. If you love the TV series, you'll love this. If you love this, you'll love the TV Series. Cannot physically fault this play.
The film was great because it was a rococo delirious ranting and raving half nightmare half dream with maybe a third half of delirium not tremens but definitely AIDS. But the play in print sounds wordy and quite often vague, vain and even void. It has probably aged though it might only have been easy and politically correctly incorrect at the time. A little bit of anti-Reagan anti-republican anti-establishment oration and a lot of banal very trite and at times humdrum conformist discourse. The trick is in bringing together blacks, Jews, Mormons, progressive snobs and popular effetes and make it all react in a high shocking half pleasing, pleasing because shocking and shocking because pleasing, situational comedy. You add homosexuality on that and it becomes provocative, with a queen and a few other characteristic personages. And the morality is all contained in one sentence page 204: "You have to reconcile yourself to the world's imperfectability by being thoroughly IN the world but not OF it." You can't imagine anything more demagogical and opportunistic than that. And it comes to a second decision or piece of advice: "The rhythm of history is conservative." And there we are with another fashionable idea of the 1990s: the death of history. There is no history any more when a certain level of development is reached. History does not move any more. History is conservative, conservational. Yet in spite of all that the play is funny. In fact it is a farce, a melodramatic farce and it may survive because of this dimension. It is a farce coming from the Reagan and Bush sr years and announcing the ridiculous end of the hope that was born with Clinton and buried by him long before due. When a period that could and should have been of change ends up in the savory and stinking rigmarole procedure of the impeachment of the President because of some sexual caprice of his in the Oval Office and the subsequent discussion whether sex requires penetration and whether buccal penetration is sexual. This kind of farce died with the Bush jr backlash, the war on Iraq and the birth of maybe a new hope of change after eight years of punishing castigation. You have the right to wonder if history is not a farce, but I am afraid that farcical dimension comes from the on-looking eye that does not believe life can be horrible to the point of justifying death.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne & University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines