AngelsinAmerica - Thursday March 8 2001 Story of'Angels in America is normal rather than noble Cody Griggers Princetonian Arts Writer In 1996 Tony

AngelsinAmerica - Thursday March 8 2001 Story of'Angels in...

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Thursday, March 8, 2001 Story of 'Angels in America' is normal rather than noble Cody Griggers - Princetonian Arts Writer In 1996, Tony Kushner's Pulitzerand Tony Award-winning play, "Angels in America," met with some resistance when a production was set to open in Charlotte, North Carolina. Hours before the curtain was supposed to go up, Reverend Joseph R. Chambers publicly denounced the play, threatening to have the cast arrested for "indecent exposure." "This play is filled with vulgarity, filled with explicit scenes, filled with unsafe sex," Chambers spewed when contacted by the New York Times. With support from arts organizations and the American Civil Liberties Union, a local judge eventually ordered that the show could indeed go on. The incident, while small and largely unnoticed is but a single chapter in the production history of a play that, like the angel in its title, continues to crash through the walls of naturalistic theater throughout the world. Today, "Angels in America" strives to make its mark on the Princeton community as the latest Program in Theatre and Dance senior thesis production, directed by Jared Ramos '01. Not-so-subtly subtitled "A Gay Fantasia on National Themes," Kushner makes no attempt to ground this play in strict reality, nor is he modest about the epic scope that his work envisions — and I emphasize epic — the play's two separate but intertwined parts combine for a marathon seven hour run. But the attention span-deficient need not shy away — Ramos explores only the apocalyptic "Part I: Millennium Approaches" in this production (a choice echoed by many professional directors), which provides an ample and rather timely glimpse into Kushner's razor-sharp wit and social commentary. The setting is New York in 1985, a mere 15 years before the dawn of the third millennium. AIDS had just become the latest buzzword in the media. It is easy to write off "Angels in America" as merely an AIDS play, and many critics have taken free reign to do so. But the brilliance behind Kushner's rendition of a fantasy-tinged 80's reality is that he uses AIDS as a lens through which some of society's other widespread issues — global warming, pollution, anti-Semitism, Reaganomics — are illuminated. The disease becomes a metaphor for a devastated society fighting to survive and maintain an eroding faith in a crumbling world.
But even more significant are the universal themes that "Angels" explores through its complex, interwoven character relationships. The plot is far too complex to lend itself to a reductive summary, but the action essentially centers on two struggling relationships, one gay and one straight. On one end of the spectrum are Joe (Noah Burger '04) and Prior (Jed Peterson '04). Together for four years, the couple is forced to reexamine its faith in the power of love and the ensuing shadow of death. Prior has been diagnosed with AIDS and slowly is beginning to show the scars of his battle, and Louis quite simply can't cut it. With no one to turn to, Prior seeks solace in the

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