Wednesday, June 17, 2015

theatre review - ANGELS IN AMERICA: PERESTROIKA - Nearly Naked Theatre - June 13

Drew Swaine and Raheem De'Angelo
Photo: Laura Durant / Nearly Naked Theatre
Click here to read my complete review (highlights below) at

"Perestroika, the second part of Tony Kushner's two-part play Angels in America, is about hope, change, compassion, and making a leap into the unknown. Set in the mid to late 1980s, Kushner's Tony winning play follows the characters he so brilliantly created in the first part, Millennium Approaches, as they navigate their way through the fallout of the AIDS epidemic and the changing moral, political, and social views of that decade. While Perestroika is more complex than Millennium Approaches it also has less plot and character development and ends up somewhat overstuffed with an excessive amount of interwoven theories, including one that relates all of our pain to God's abandonment, that don't always make sense. However, even with the play's shortcomings and a few small quibbles, Nearly Naked Theatre's decision to perform both parts of Angels in repertory culminates in a rich theatrical experience....Director Damon Dering's cast has grown in their roles since their debut of Millennium last week. As Prior, Drew Swaine is simply stellar in the part...The sense of compassion and honesty that KatiBelle Collins brings to Hannah is very moving. Mike Largent allows us to see the sadness and passion that Louis feels, and the scene in which he and Collins, as Ethel Rosenberg, deliver the Kaddish for Cohn is deeply touching....Vickie Hall effectively displays the clarity that Harper encounters through her Valium-induced haze...Raheem De'Angelo's instills Belize with a strength and dignity...Pat Russel's Cohn is less nasty than before, which makes sense as he is close to death...One of my major complaints with Perestroika is that Kushner doesn't quite seem to know what to do with Joe, which means that Thomas Hicks has less of a character arc to play than the rest of the characters, though he still manages to show us the small changes that Joe makes. Brandi Bigley makes for a forceful Angel as well as a caring and matter of fact nurse....Dering does a good job in keeping his actors focused, even with the multiple characters some play, and keeps the over three hour play moving along, but even he can't do much to help with a few of Kushner's scenes that seem unnecessary or overly long. ...While Perestroika isn't quite as good a play as the first part, it concludes with a rewarding ending with most of the characters experiencing a feeling of self-awareness as well as forgiveness. While seeing Angels in America today doesn't have quite the emotional impact it did back when it first premiered in the early 1990s, Nearly Naked Theatre's production is admirable, with a good cast, clear direction, and fine creative elements. At the very end of Perestroika, Prior speaks to the audience and delivers a message of hope, repeating the statement the Angel said to him: "the great work begins." Even though it's been over 20 years since I first heard that call to action, it remains as moving today as it did then."

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