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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A triumphant landmark of the U.S. theater
Tony Kushner's two part epic play "Angels in America" is
truly a landmark of United States literature. The two parts of the
play (subtitled "Millennium Approaches" and
"Perestroika") together represent a passionate and
intelligent exploration of American life during the era of President
Ronald Reagan. Kushner peoples...
Published on Aug. 26 2001 by Michael J. Mazza

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Read this twice...
I first read Millenium and Perestroika when I was in high school and Kushner won the Pulitzer. I reread the same plays when my college decided to put on both productions. On the whole I believe these plays were so acclaimed because of the times they were written in, and not much more.
In Millenium Kushner does make some of his characters stereotypical homosexuals and...
Published on Oct. 23 2000 by D. Landrum


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A triumphant landmark of the U.S. theater, Aug. 26 2001
By 
Tony Kushner's two part epic play "Angels in America" is
truly a landmark of United States literature. The two parts of the
play (subtitled "Millennium Approaches" and
"Perestroika") together represent a passionate and
intelligent exploration of American life during the era of President
Ronald Reagan. Kushner peoples his play with individuals who are for
the most part "marginal" in some way in U.S. culture. His
characters include Mormons, gay men, men with AIDS, Jews, a drug
addict, and an African-American drag queen. These various perspectives
and voices allow Kushner to create some fascinating dialogues about
the "American dream"--and about the nightmares that can go
along with it.

Kushner's cast of characters is excellently drawn, but
perhaps his most astounding creation is influential lawyer Roy Cohn, a
fictionalized version of a real historical figure. A gay Jew who is
himself viciously homophobic, Kushner's Cohn is grotesque, hilarious,
frightening, and seductive all at once. This character allows Kushner
to make fascinating statements about power, politics, and sexual
identity.

Also brilliant is Kushner's use of Mormonism and its
theology as an integral component of the play. Kushner is the first
literary artist I know of who has used Mormon themes and motifs in
such a consistently compelling and intelligent way. Kushner is, in my
opinion, neither a proselytizer for nor a basher of Mormonism, but his
presentation of troubled Mormon characters and his apparent satirizing
of some aspects of Mormon theology both strike me as potentially
controversial. Because Mormonism is a religion founded in the U.S.,
this aspect of Kushner's play accentuates the essential
"American-ness" of the piece.

Kushner achieves a stunning
blend of politically charged realism and fantastic, even playful
mysticism in "Angels." His writing is sharp and cutting at
times, and elsewhere tender and haunting. And the play is often quite
funny. Although the action of the play focuses on the Reagan era,
"Angels" often takes in a much larger sweep of U.S., and
even world, history.

"Angels in America" is a fascinating
meditation on power and its abuse, on disease and healing, on honesty
to oneself and to others, and on pluralism and bigotry. A masterpiece
of 20th century literature, this is a play to be seen. But whether or
not you have seen it, it is also a work to be read and pondered.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Important Read, June 20 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes: Part One: Millennium Approaches Part Two: Perestroika (Paperback)
I read this over the past few weeks--remembering the 1980's when the AIDS crises hit. This is an important book in that it chronicles the effects this disease has had and its impact on challanging, cultural questions. I also recommend the memoir by Barbara Rose Brooker: "God Doesn't Make Trash" and Shilts' "The Band Played On'. Both moving, both worth reading.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Well written, but..., June 9 2004
This review is from: Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes: Part One: Millennium Approaches Part Two: Perestroika (Paperback)
This isn't a fair representation of the Reagan years. First off, it's a fact that Ethel Rosenberg was a communist. Like it or not, she, along with her husband, was a spy! They lied to the American public and they were a detrimant. Reviving Ethel Rosenberg like that was done quite tastelessly. Furthermore, it's a fact that Ronald Reagan has spent 5.7 billion dollars to help research AIDS! It isn't Reagan who helped spread the disease of AIDS it was unprotected sex. Ronald Reagan being a Republican-Conservative was used as a scapegoat in this play. I don't mind if this play is trying to spread a liberal agenda (the more power to you!), but I do mind that they do it in spite of a great President with lies.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bound by the beauty, March 8 2004
This review is from: Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes: Part One: Millennium Approaches Part Two: Perestroika (Paperback)
In this epic play, subtitled a Gay Fantasia on National Themes, we follow the lives of a small group of people struggling with AIDS, love, and the meaning of forgiveness. Prior Walter has AIDS, and his lover Louis leaves him because he cannot handle it. Prior is later visited by the Angel, who deems him a prophet, but of what? Louis meets Joe whose marriage is collapsing, and the two find solace in each other. Roy Cohn is one of the most powerful men in America, so he cannot have AIDS because that would be a sign of weakness. Instead, he has cancer. "Angels in America" is a fantastic meditation on love and politics in the beginning years of the AIDS crisis that still has relevance today with its message of greater love and acceptance.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Enough here to consider over a lifetime, Jan. 28 2004
By 
Birdman (Minnetonka, MN USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes: Part One: Millennium Approaches Part Two: Perestroika (Paperback)
With ANGELS, Tony Kushner has accomplished what only a rare few Western writers have managed to do. Integrating biblical knowledge, classical history, myth, poetry and a vast understanding of the human heart in all of its best and worst guises, these plays illuminate with the blinding fire of the angel at its core, the great hypocrisies which lay just beneath the surface of our nation. Like Howard Zinn, and to some extent Studs Terkel, Kushner recognizes that we are not one nation under God. Instead, we seem to be a huge, selfish and confused hoarde attepting to move forward in time with primary moral references to the oldest, and in some ways, least applicable documents and sources of wisdom. Whether one believes that God is "dead" or not, I cannot imagine another work of literature which might promote a more useful theological discussion between so-called liberals and conservatives. Add to this the fact that the stories and characterization are gripping, the heroes are truly admirable and the villains reprehensible. Humans change in profound and permanent ways, and amid the pain of our time, there is -- after a reading of these remarkable plays -- still hope. For once in many years, the Pulitzer Prize moved in the right direction. Whether read or viewed on stage or in its most recent iteration as a superb HBO movie, ANGELS is one of the most rewarding experiences of a lifetime.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Great Prose Squandered for the Sake of a Hollow Vision, Jan. 15 2004
By 
Alexander Zubatov "iiigs" (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes: Part One: Millennium Approaches Part Two: Perestroika (Paperback)
I recall the critical reception that Angels in America received at the time of its initial Broadway run. At that time, it was edgy enough to make many audience members uncomfortable --which it would certainly not do today -- yet it also came at just the right moment to be a coming-of-age manifesto for the gay rights movement. Only the boldest of critics would have dared to disparage it during that heydey of political correctness. And it isn't a horrible play; it's only horribly flawed. But it was also perfectly positioned to capture a mass audience. It seemed transgressive enough to lure aging baby boomers into a sense that they were seeing something risque (the same way much simplistic, commercial hip hop does), yet it piled on enough superficial schlock to make them feel good. This is not to say that the plays don't have great moments; they do. These are individuals scenes, individual lines, one or two extended speeches and sequences. These are sufficient to give the plays an illusion of depth, an illusion of grandiosity and significance. But Kushner lacks the vision to make the plays as a whole truly deep, to put his good moments at the service of a great idea (as opposed to a trite, cloying idea). And he lacks the discipline to purge the plays of their truly atrocious moments, which include some incredibly stereotypical characters, redundant monologues that do nothing but bluster and a drawn-out ending so banal and embarrassing that it is shocking to me that someone did not force Kushner to change it. There is also a lot of second-rate let's-laugh-at-the-Republicans-style humor. There are also many religious ideas being thrown around loosely and ultimately put at the service of a formula no more sophisticated than what Harold Bloom identifies in The Anxiety of Influence as Milton's weak Satanic proclamation "[e]vil, be thou my good," which reduces the grandeur of Satan to a mere childish rebellion. If I were to describe the overall feel of the plays, it would be like Dostoevsky's The Possessed (better translated as Demons) being written by Ron Howard.
I am aware that I am bucking the critical tide on this, but I would be surprised if fifty years down the road Angels in America has anything near the status that it does today. We are still too close in time to Angels in America to be able to judge it at the kind of critical distance necessary to separate ourselves from the political and emotional tenor of the moment, on which the plays so strongly depend for their sustenance. Suffice it to say that I have never seen or read another major play nor read a major novel that is so cheap, so full of cliches, so not in control of its own vision. It has, in many ways, all the big flaws of a Hollywood end-of-year blockbuster, which takes whatever good ideas it might have had and ruins them. While the Nichols movie version unquestionably plays up some of the bad stuff, its bigger problem is what it cannot possibly play down, what is, in other words, there in the text.
As a recent reviewer wrote, speaking of the movie version:
"After five and a half hours of taking up your time, what does Angels reward you with? A version of heaven that seems cribbed from those old 'Calvin Klein Obsession' ads, the inane conclusion that God deserves to be 'sued', and the oldest screenwriting cop-out in the book: hinting that it all may have just been a dream. This is followed by a lame Wizard of Oz reference that essentially mocks everything it just attempted to say, and more false endings than Sugar Ray Leonard's boxing career. My grandmother, a wise old schoolteacher-type, used to be fond of reminding people that 'an emptiest barrel makes the most noise.' While Angels in America does have some redeeming qualities and a handful of good performances, what has it really said after taking up six hours of the audience's time? That AIDS is a terrible disease? That there just might not be a God up there watching over us? That, as Woody Allen once said, life is full of misery, loneliness and suffering - and it's all over much too soon? Or perhaps, as Jerry Springer said, that we should take care of ourselves and each other? With all the noise this empty barrel makes, it's amazing that it still manages to be so full of itself."
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Work begins..., Jan. 11 2004
This review is from: Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes: Part One: Millennium Approaches Part Two: Perestroika (Paperback)
I went out and bought this almost immediately after I watched the HBO miniseries. I must say, Tony Kushner's masterpiece looks very good on screen, and it stays pretty faithful to this book (script) with only a few minor changes, most noticeably in Part Two, Perestroika.
I normally don't like reading plays, finding the stage directions and minimal characterizations ungainly and somehow disappointing. After reading this, though, I have to admit, Angels in America looks fabulous anywhere: stage, screen, or in this case, even on paper.
In the beginning, Kushner gives some "performance notes" about staging. There should be minimal scenery and props, scene changes should be fluid and easy, without the use of blackouts, perhaps suggesting a "single stream of conscious thought onstage." The special effects (flying, magical appearances) need not be perfect; wires may show, and perhaps it is best if they do; as if the magic of the theater is able to express the *magic* on stage.
Reading this script opens a whole new door for people who have only seen the HBO mini-series. And while, I'm sure, seeing it onstage is best, reading the script is still an amazing experience.
What Tony Kushner has accomplished in Angels in America is by and far one of the most extraordinary experiences that one is likely to have the pleasure of benefitting from. I know of no other play, or other dramatic enterprise, that engages the mind so thoroughly, in discussion of some of the most complex and controversial issues of our time, or any time.
When reading this, you may feel overwhelmed. There appears to be so much happening, and the events may seem a complicated and tangled web. However, once you reach the end, to Prior's haunting yet uplifing closing monologue, there is a part of you that will understand it,no matter how small it may be. It sinks in, the message, the beauty, the pure humannes of the story, and you are changed.
The Great Work begins...
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5.0 out of 5 stars THE GREATEST AMERICAN PLAY SINCE DEATH OF A SALESMAN, Feb. 5 2002
By 
"gslip75" (New Windsor, NY USA) - See all my reviews
Death of a Salesman, Long Day's Journey Into Night, A Streetcar Named Desire. These are all twentieth century classics and, in 1993,Tony Kuschner's Angels in America opened on Broadway and deserves to be compared with these great works of the American theatre. The play reads like all great works; filled with allusions, strong emotions, great passion, and timeless characterization. The story is poignant and although AIDS research and treatment has changed greatly since this play was written, that does not change the mark left on the lives of those touched by it. This play defines the attitudes of Americans in the last half of the twentieth century and deserves to be studied in literature classes for many years to come.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Read this twice..., Oct. 23 2000
By 
D. Landrum (Charlotte, NC United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I first read Millenium and Perestroika when I was in high school and Kushner won the Pulitzer. I reread the same plays when my college decided to put on both productions. On the whole I believe these plays were so acclaimed because of the times they were written in, and not much more.
In Millenium Kushner does make some of his characters stereotypical homosexuals and some of his characters, like Harper, often speak English as if it were a second language. I don't know anyone who speaks like this woman does! Several moments in the play become preachy and you often walk away feeling battered and bruised into seeing Kushner's point. But the characters Joe Harper and Roy Cohn make this play a must-read. These two characters are so wonderfully depicted in scenes together and with other characters that you know them by the time you close the book.
When you finish Perestroika, you are likely to feel that Kushner sold out, even though the writing is much more audience friendly and less preachy. It is an easier read than Millenium but many of the conflicts end far too conveniently while others will put a smirk on your face.
My advice--read these plays twice. Once for enjoyment, and again to try to understand what specifically Kushner is trying to say.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Undeniably the greatest piece of American Literature . . ., May 14 2000
"Angels in America" is truly one of those rare, astronomical events that defies simple description. I certainly couldn't put under 1000 words what I think about this play. This semester for Dramaturgy Class, I wrote a Research report on "Angels in America" discussing everything from Roy Cohn (both a villian and a piteous figure)to It was 75 pages long, double-spaced. I'm not kidding. You could, and can, spend years trying to understand all the layers of this play, discovering something new every time you open the pages. "Angels in America" is something can cannot be prepared for. You can't say to yourself "I'm going to be reading about gay people" or "I'm going to be reading a comedy about A.I.D.S", or anything else, because "Angels in America" simply is too complex, steeped in metaphor and language to really prepare yourself for. I had tried to, and I was shocked at was I was reading, and it's most likely that at least one aspect of this play will make you cringe in some way or another, no matter who you are, but that's part of the plays power.
Just sit back in a comfortable chair, get relaxed, and open your mind. You won't regret it, and the power that Kushner evokes will both enable and enlighten you.
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Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes: Part One: Millennium Approaches Part Two: Perestroika
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