Stephen Spinella on Tony Kushner's "Homo Song of American Sissies and Queers, Closet-Cases and Nasty Queens"

Playbill Pride   Stephen Spinella on Tony Kushner's "Homo Song of American Sissies and Queers, Closet-Cases and Nasty Queens"
 
As part of Playbill's 30 Days of Pride, Angels in America star Stephen Spinella reflects on the impact of Tony Kushner's work.

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A Gay Fantasia on National Themes is the often forgotten subtitle to Tony Kushner's magnificent soul-searching look at Ronald Reagan's America. Angels in America's full-throated homo song of American sissies and queers, closet-cases and nasty queens — who, with their wives and mothers, struggled to survive in the early days of AIDS and the latter days of the pernicious homophobic boot — took Broadway on a fantastical two-year ride (Best Play Tonys for each part, two years in a row!) with its two metaphysically expansive plays, Millennium Approaches and Perestroika.

Stephen Spinella and Tony Kushner in 2010
Stephen Spinella and Tony Kushner in 2010 Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

With over 30 characters played by eight actors, the plays were chock full of nellie sentiment — I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille — and gay bitchiness:

Belize: Guess who just checked in with the troubles? The Killer Queen Herself. New York's number one closeted queer.
Prior: Koch?

There was one laugh in the second play, Perestroika, that would sometimes last 40 seconds, an eternity onstage:

Hannah: Would you say you are a typical… homosexual?
Prior: Me? Oh, I'm stereotypical. What, you mean like am I a hairdresser or…
Hannah: Are you a hairdresser?
Prior: Well it would be your lucky day if I was because frankly…

Its politics and its prose established Tony as one of the preeminent new voices of American writing, and at the core of its power was the daily tenacious determination of LGBTQ people to take their place as equal players on the stage. It remains the artistic achievement of my life I am proudest of.

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