Thursday, September 12, 2019


It’s been over 25 years since Tony Kushner’s Angels in America opened on Broadway, but the Rep’s season opening production of this two-part epic is confirmation of its enduring potency. It’s set in the 1980s during the apex of the AIDS crisis (and the Reagan administration’s lack of urgency in responding to it), but like most classics, there are far-sighted echoes throughout that resonate today. From anxiety about the environment and the cruelty of personal and political self-interests, to the little triumphs of hopeful persistence in the face of fear and uncertainty, the characters in Kushner’s script navigate individual turmoil between the blurred lines of cold realities and fantastical visions, taking on a heavy load, but never straying from a sharp sense of humor. The subtitle, A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, winks at the play’s overall topics, but gives no hint of its remarkable ability to be as expansive as it is intimate. Under Tony Speciale’s graceful direction and a superb cast, Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, stimulates the senses.

Louis Ironson (Ben Cherry) and Prior Walter (Barrett Foa).
Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
Two couples whose relationships are crumbling are at the core. There’s Prior Walter (Barrett Foa), defiantly buoyant despite having recently discovered the first lesions of Kaposi's sarcoma, and his boyfriend Louis Ironson (Ben Cherry), a word processor whose feelings for Prior are tested by his partner’s AIDS diagnosis, which was, in the 80s, as good as a death sentence. Prior refuses to be anything less than fabulous even though his body is being ravaged, and Foa’s performance sways nimbly between effortless charm and indignation, without losing the current of fear under the surface. Louis blunts his guilt with long-winded, pious notions about the ills of the country, and Cherry’s portrayal is an attentive one of fits and starts. Their mutual friend, nurse and ex-drag queen Belize, played by an unyielding and endearing David Ryan Smith, is the stable, clear-eyed center between Prior and Louis -- doling out compassionate attention and hard truth as the needs arise.

Harper Pitt (Valeri Mudek) and Joseph Pitt (Jayson Speters).
Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
Then we’ve got Joseph Pitt (Jayson Speters), a law clerk and devout Mormon struggling to tend to his Valium-addicted wife, Harper (Valeri Mudek). She wants to flee to Antarctica and escape suspicions about her husband, while Joe wants to bury his desires in his work with Reagan-era optimism. Mudek’s work as Harper is strong, adeptly striking a balance between someone trying as desperately to detach as she is to connect. Speters, genuine as her loving husband and torn in his appetite for career advancement, finds himself latched to real-life lawyer and fixer, Roy Cohn (Peter Frechette). And what can you say about Frechette’s performance as Roy Cohn?

Roy M. Cohn (Peter Frechette)
and Joseph Pitt (Jayson Speters).
Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
Yes, that Roy Cohn. Kushner based his character on the real-life brute of the right wing, known for contentious questioning of suspected Communists while serving as chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy. Frechette, satisfyingly, wears his power and influence as comfortably as a glove -- driven to conquer and ferociously deny anything that threatens his stamp on the world, regardless of his bleak view of it.

Meredith Baxter and Gina Daniels round out the knock-out cast as Joe’s mother, Hannah Pitt, and Nurse Emily respectively, but these two (whom we’ll see more of in Part Two), and just about everyone else in the cast, double and triple up on roles.

Hannah Pitt (Meredith Baxter)
and Homeless Woman (Gina Daniels).
Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
The two parts of the play -- Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, will run in repertory and can be seen separately, but for you hard-core types, the Rep is offering marathon performances on Sept. 15, 18, 21, 28 and 29 and Oct. 5 and 6, with Part One running at 1pm and Part Two running later that day at 7pm. You can check the performance schedule below or visit for more details.

If you’ve never seen this play before, now’s the time. And if you have seen this play before, now’s the time to see it again. Seriously.

Harper Pitt (Valeri Mudek), Joseph Pitt (Jayson Speters),
Prior Walter (Barrett Foa) and Louis Ironson (Ben Cherry).
Photo credit: Peter Wochniak

Written by Tony Kushner
Directed by Tony Speciale
Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road
through October 6 | tickets: $20 - $97.50
Performances Tuesdays at 7pm, Wednesdays at 7pm, selected Wednesdays at 1pm, Thursdays and Fridays at 7pm, selected Saturdays at 4pm, Sunday, September 22 (Part Two) at 1pm
Marathon performances Sept. 15, 18, 21, 28 and 29 and Oct. 5 and 6:
Part One: Millennium Approaches at 1pm
Part Two: Perestroika at 7pm

Louis Ironson (Ben Cherry) and Belize (David Ryan Smith).
Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
Rabbi Isidor Chemelwitz, Henry, Hannah Pitt, Ethel Rosenberg, Aleskii Antedilluvianovich, Asiatica: Meredith Baxter*
Roy M. Cohn, Prior 2, Antarctica: Peter Frechette*
Joseph Pitt, Prior 1, Europa: Jayson Speters*
Harper Pitt, Martin Heller, Africanii: Valeri Mudek*
Mr. Lies, Belize, Oceania: David Ryan Smith*
Louis Ironson, Australia: Ben Cherry*
Prior Walter, The Man in the Park: Barrett Foa*
The Angel, Emily, Sister Ella Chapter, Homeless Woman, Mormon Mother: Gina Daniels*

Harper Pitt (Valeri Mudek) and Joseph Pitt (Jayson Speters).
Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
Scenic Designer: Timothy Mackabee
Costume Designer: Dede Ayite
Lighting Designer: Xavier Pierce
Original Music and Sound Design: Broken Chord
Projection Designer: Alex Basco Koch
Associate Director/Violence, Intimacy and Movement Director: Tommy Rapley
Dramaturg: Gad Guterman
Voice and Dialect Coach: Joanna Battles
Associate Costume designer: Jake Poster
Casting By: Pat McCorkle, CSA, Katja Zarolinski, CSA, McCorkle Casting Ltd.
Stage Manager: Emilee Buchheit
Associate Stage Manager: Lorraine LiCavoli
Production Assistant: Makenzie Clark
Flying Effects Provided By: ZFX, Inc

* Denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of
Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States

No comments:

Post a Comment