Friday, September 19, 2014

Angels, Part 2

The second part of Angels in America, which I saw last night, was generally better than the first part.  There was a different energy -- less despair; more anger, hope, reconciliation -- and some of the characters changed in interesting ways.  The depiction of Mormonism was slightly more nuanced, and I appreciated that, whatever else the playwright may think of Mormonism, he clearly felt that you should never underestimate of a Mormon woman.  The play may ostensibly have been "about" gay men and the AIDS crisis, but to my mind the most interesting characters were the two Mormon women who were constantly being judged and circumscribed by the men around them; they always managed to prove themselves greater than the limitations projected onto them by the men.

But this part was also still really weird.  Hermaphroditic angels swooped about, and there was a brightly colored heaven with old transistor radios that foretold the future.  I think the ambition was prophetic, but the achievement felt more like a sort of manic cynicism.  And the ultimate refrain, "I want more life", struck me as obvious.

The play (both parts) also felt very historically and geographically specific to me.  Like the musical Rent, the play expresses and reflects a very particular moment and mood in U.S. history.  The angst and drama is so enmeshed with Reaganism, the end of the Cold War, and the AIDS crisis -- all as seen through the eyes of New Yorkers -- that it felt more like an artifact than a universal work of art.

So I'm going to put the play into the same category as the novel Les Miserables: a significant cultural work that I'm glad I've experienced, but which ultimately failed to move me in the way that other works of art have done.


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