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Posted May 2, 2002
Embarrassing, insulting, and badly written. Can I give negative stars?
Selections from a paper I wrote about this play. If you want the whole thing, email me--- The type of play we often call an ¿issues play¿ is difficult to write. Obviously, a social issue is examined by a playwright through a story involving characters affected by and affecting the specific issue. The issue must be dealt with both frankly and sensitively, seriously yet with a touch of humor, and realistically while still remaining universal enough for all audiences. Tony Kushner fails to find these delicate balances in his thoroughly obnoxious Angels in America Part 1: Millennium Approaches. Kushner tries to be sensitive, but ends up only looking like he is clumsily and unashamedly digging for pity. As for frankness, Kushner lacks not. To show us the extent of Prior¿s disease, Kushner feels the need to strip him completely down on stage. Again, Kushner is basically evoking pity, saying ¿look at this poor man! This is what homophobic white male supremacists have done to us!¿ Kushner has no problems remaining serious. He deals with a serious disease, a man¿s serious denial, and many other very, very serious issues. His problem is finding the humor. His script is a series of stilted, melodramatic scenes lightened with only awkward and supposedly comedic moments. They are only funny in the sense that the writing is so laughably bad. Is Angels in America realistic? Well, if you are a conservative straight white male who has never had any contact with homosexuality, you would think so. All the gay men are depicted as promiscuous ¿queen¿ types who cry and complain about everything. One thing Kushner does do right is explore many aspects of homosexuality through an array of characters. The characters are just completely one-dimensional and irksome. Probably the worst thing about the play was the incessant complaining. Never did a character overcome something and end up stronger. Even in the end, where we assume Joe and Louis end up together, one can only assume that it will end badly with Joe returning to the closet because of his religion and Louis not waiting around for him. All the characters are fundamentally weak. I apologize for speaking so negatively of such a renowned play, but I found it dull, preachy, whiny, and downright offensive. I understand the significance of this work. It was the very first play to explore these issues, which was the sole reason it won awards. Kushner, in reality, needs to examine his writing significantly. Had I not known Kushner was gay, I would have thought a straight male wrote this play to show what terrible people homosexuals are, to justify all the reasons they are to be scorned and hated, and to explain why God would send his angels to kill them off first. But, people love issues plays. They love to be able to read a play and feel like humanity has hope. The fact that Angels in America won the Pulitzer Prize does not give me much.
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