Angels in America | Study Guide

Tony Kushner

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Angels in America | Critical Reception


The Positive

Angels in America received two Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize. Many reviews in the press were full of praise. Frank Rich in the New York Times called it an "astonishing theatrical landscape" and "the most thrilling American play in years." John Lahr in the New Yorker wrote that the play was "a victory for Kushner, for theatre, for the transforming power of the imagination to turn devastation into beauty." The Los Angeles Times called the touring production "funny, heart-breaking and uplifting" and full of "imaginative and lyrical" human connections. Among scholarly critics, Harold Bloom included Angels in America in his 1994 book The Western Canon, giving the play the stamp of lasting literary significance.

The Negative

Popular and scholarly views of the play were not unanimously positive. Influential queer theorist Leo Bersani called the play "muddled and pretentious." Lee Siegel in The New Republic called the play an "overwrought, coarse, posturing, formulaic mess," and "a second-rate play written by a second-rate playwright who happens to be gay." Arlene Croce also seemed to take umbrage at the playwright's identity and its connection to the content. In a provocative review focused primarily on the work of gay choreographer Bill T. Jones, Croce included Angels in America as an example of "victim art" that sacrifices aesthetic concerns for political ones.

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