“Angels in America,” playwright Tony Kushner’s sweeping masterwork honored with a Pulitzer Prize and multiple Tony Awards, will be staged by Utah Repertory Theater Company at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, a quarter century after its winged title character first hovered over a Broadway stage.
A fierce and astounding two-part drama, “Angels in America” is at once an epic exploration of politics, gay identity and mythology, and a personal story of love and loyalty – and with scenes set in and characters from Salt Lake City.
Utah Rep Artistic Director JayC Stoddard directs Part 1 “Millennium Approaches” May 30-June 9, with the Part 2, “Perestroika,” to be produced next year by the same cast and creative team.
According to Stoddard: “The AIDS crisis is one subject among many in ‘Angels in America,’ but it’s so much more than that. Racism. Abandonment. What happens when your religion and your repression collide and how that affects the people closest to us. How to be our best selves in a world designed to crush us. These are just a very few ideas presented to us in this work: Ideas that will never stop being relevant.”
With the Mormon Church strongly influencing culture and politics in Utah, it’s a unique experience for actors to be performing “Angels in America” in Utah.
“It’s exciting to participate in ‘Angels in America’ to tell a story that is still applicable to today’s problems — and in a place where these problems are looked past,” said Lucas Stewart, who plays Joe Pitt. “We have the opportunity to share a story that, sadly, resonates with too many people in this state. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, in Utah where this play won’t be seen a whole lot.
“I hope audiences will take a step back and look at the people struggling in their life and to open their eyes to new experiences and other cultures. Mormons have a culture the same way LGBT+ people have a culture. We all have different life experiences but we all share the same world.”
“There are still young Mormon men like Joe Pitt who ache for things they don’t think they can have,” said Liz Whittaker, who performs the role of Hannah Pitt, Joe’s mother. “There are still people whose humanity we ignore when they develop AIDS. And there are still men like Roy Cohn in positions of power. Good art should disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed, and this production does plenty of both.”
The epic work, which demands to be revisited again and again, spans the Reagan-Bush eras and spirals around the AIDS crisis in 1980s New York, weaving the lives of fictional and historical characters into a feverish web of social, political and sexual revelations. In today’s sociopolitical climate, Kushner’s universal message of compassion and inclusion makes “Angels in America” as timely as ever.
Tickets are available at https://artsaltlake.org/production/angels-in-america-part-1-millennium-approaches/.