"The Great Work Begins!" Off-Broadway Revival of Angels in America Opens

News   "The Great Work Begins!" Off-Broadway Revival of Angels in America Opens
 
Signature Theatre's new production of Tony Kushner's ambitious two-part, six-and-a-half-hour Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes officially opens Oct. 28 with a performance of Part Two, Perestroika, followed by an after-party celebrating the Off-Broadway run.

Frank Wood
Frank Wood Photo by Joan Marcus

This is the first New York City revival of the groundbreaking Reagan-era-set epic about fictional and historical characters commingling in the time of AIDS. Performances began in repertory Sept. 14 (and continue to Feb. 20, 2011) at Signature's home at the Peter Norton Space (555 West 42nd Street).

Kushner, a Tony Award winner and Pulitzer Prize winner for the project, admitted to Playbill this year that he's revised Part Two for this production.

"I've never done any rewrites on [Part One] Millennium [Approaches]," he told Playbill's Harry Haun. "Basically, it's the same script [director] David Esbjornson used for the first professional production at San Francisco's Eureka Theatre in 1990. Perestroika I rewrite every chance I get. I did a rewrite when it came to Broadway, and published that. Then I worked on it during the national tour and published that. Now, for Off-Broadway, I worked on it again, and there'll be a new edition — not radically different, but there're alterations. To revisit it at this point is a great thrill.

"There are just some plays where you can always say, 'What if I try this?' and 'What if I try that?' and you just can't do anything because they're completely done. I feel that the Millennium part of Angels is completely done. Caroline, or Change is completely done. But there are some plays you have to keep at it."

Directed by Michael Greif (Rent, Next to Normal), the production is billed this way by Signature: "Set in late 1985 and early 1986, as the first wave of the AIDS epidemic in America is escalating and Ronald Reagan has been elected to a second term in the White House, this Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play's two parts, Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, bring together a young gay man with AIDS and his frightened, unfaithful lover; a closeted Mormon lawyer and his valium-addicted wife; the infamous New York lawyer Roy Cohn; an African-American male nurse; a Mormon housewife from Utah; and a steel-winged, prophecy-bearing angel; as well as the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg, an ancient rabbi, the world's oldest living Bolshevik and a Reagan administration functionary, among many others — all played by a company of eight actors. The lives of these disparate characters intersect, intertwine, collide and are blown apart during a time of heartbreak, reaction and transformation. Ranging from earth to heaven, from the political to the intimate to the visionary and supernatural, Angels in America is an epic exploration of love, justice, identity and theology, of the difficulty, terror and necessity of change." Angels in America features Robin Bartlett (Circle Rep's Reckless, Broadway's Prelude to a Kiss) as Hannah Pitt, Christian Borle (Legally Blonde, Wicked) as Prior Walter, Bill Heck (The Orphans' Home Cycle) as Joe Pitt, Zoe Kazan (A Behanding in Spokane) as Harper Pitt, Billy Porter (Miss Saigon, Smokey Joe's Café) as Belize, Zachary Quinto ("Star Trek," "Heroes") as Louis Ironson, Robin Weigert ("Deadwood," Noises Off) as The Angel and Tony Award winner Frank Wood (Side Man) as Roy Cohn.

The production team includes scenic designer Mark Wendland, costume designer Clint Ramos, lighting designer Ben Stanton, sound designer Ken Travis, projection designer Wendall K. Harrington, hair and wig designer Charles Lapointe, dialect coach Deborah Hecht, fight director Rick Sordelet, aerial designer Paul Rubin and make-up designer Cookie Jordan. Music is by Michael Friedman and Chris Miller. Additional costumes are by Jeff Mahshie. Production stage manager is Monica Cuoco and stage manager is Joshua Pilote.

Tickets for performances through Dec. 19 are $20 through The Signature Ticket Initiative, "which seeks to make great theatre accessible to the broadest possible audience." Those tickets are sold out. Tickets for the extension to February are $85.

Angels in America plays Tuesday-Friday at 7:30 PM, Saturday at 2 PM and 8 PM, Sunday at 2 PM and 7:30 PM. For the full performance calendar, to purchase tickets or for more information, visit http://signaturetheatre.org/angels or call (212) 244-PLAY (7529).

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Signature Theatre Company's 20th anniversary season celebrates the work of Tony Kushner, and will also feature the New York premiere of iHo: The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures, also directed by Michael Greif and co-produced with The Public Theater; and The Illusion, Kushner's freely adapted version of Pierre Corneille's L'Illusion Comique, directed by Tony Award winner Michael Mayer.

The season will also include readings of selected other plays from Tony Kushner's body of work.

Zoe Kazan and Bill Heck in Part Two, <i>Perestroika</i>
Zoe Kazan and Bill Heck in Part Two, Perestroika
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