Review: ANGELS IN AMERICA-PART ONE at EPAC

Running through June 8

By: Jun. 01, 2024
Review: ANGELS IN AMERICA-PART ONE at EPAC
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EPAC delves into Pride Month with its outstanding production of Angels in America-Part One Millennium Approaches. The Tony/Drama Desk/Pulitzer winning play by Tony Kushner needs a tremendously talented and experienced cast and crew to serve it well.  EPAC fits that bill and then some.

The cast of eight play multiple parts in an extensive, yet often overlapping narrative of the AIDS crisis, morality, politics and especially hypocrisy in the mid 1980s.  Wes Wilson plays Prior Walter, a young man in New York who is beginning to show symptoms of the syndrome (NOT technically a diseases as discussed in the script).  Wilson plays his character as upbeat, funny, and kind.  His boyfriend, Louis (Jeremy Ebert) can not be described as the same and abandons his love interest of several years when the going gets tough.

Meanwhile, Joe Pitt (Sean Caldwell) is an up-and-coming politician, closeted homosexual and devout Mormon.  His wife Harper (Gabrielle Sheller) is struggling with mental illness, pill addiction, and the gradual recognition of her husband’s infidelity and true nature.

The tension between the two couples culminates in a scene of intense and emotional overlapping arguments that is sad, yet very cathartic.  Director, Ed Fernandez and Assistant Director Ben Galosi need to be commended for handling this quartet that is choreographed as well as, if not better than, many of EPAC’s musicals.

The third plot strand deals with McCarthy lawyer, Roy Cohn played expertly by EPAC veteran, Bob Checchia. Cohn is a nasty homophobic bully, diagnosed with AIDS, yet in full denial about his own homosexuality. Checchia plays him gruff and coarse.  I was especially appreciative of his monologue late in the play that was very reminiscent of Alec Baldwin’s opening speech from Glengary Glen Ross.   

While theater often manages to entertain or to move its audience, Angles in America is a great example of how quality theater can also educate.  Prior to the show, all I knew about Roy Cohn was that he was a lyric in We Didn’t Start the Fire.   But upon hearing Kushner’s masterful dialogue and viewing Checchia’s excellently vulgar and vile performance, I was incentivized to learn everything that I could about this man and the damage that he has done.

As a LGBTQ ally, I think one of my own shortcomings is not having a thorough understanding or appreciation for the historical struggles of the Community.  While I can always pick up a book or jump on a website, experiencing historical elements through drama seems much more engaging and memorable.  I am confident other audience members will have a similar experience.

Rounding out the cast are Susan Kresge, Dominic Santos, and Rachel Faust.  Each actor expertly pops in and out of scenes with a multitude of costumes, wigs, and accents.  I was impressed by both the quantity and quality of characters played.

Fenandez and Galosi direct this show with great skill and care.  They (and many of the cast) are slam dunk nominations for upcoming Broadway World awards. They balance out the highs and the lows.  There are moments that make the audience laugh hysterically, and others which bring them to tears.  The imaginary and metaphorical elements of the show were handled with sincerity.  At no point do you feel a jolt in between the story’s fantasy and reality, they blend effortlessly.

Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give is that after a 3+ hour runtime, I was disappointed that the show came to an end.  EPAC left this audience wanting more.  And we will get it. Angel in America Part Two opens at the end of the month.  I can’t wait.




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