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BWW REIVEW: Apocalypse Theatre Company Delivers A Captivating And Creative Expression of Tony Kushner's Epic Play(s) ANGELS IN AMERICA: A GAY FANTASIA ON NATIONAL THEMES.

BWW REIVEW: Apocalypse Theatre Company Delivers A Captivating And Creative Expression of Tony Kushner's Epic Play(s) ANGELS IN AMERICA: A GAY FANTASIA ON NATIONAL THEMES.

Tuesday 26th and Thursday 28th February 2019, 7:30pm, Old Fitz Theatre

Acclaimed Sydney Director Dino Dimitriadis delivers another incredible theatre experience, bringing both parts of the iconic ANGELS IN AMERICA: A GAY FANTASIA ON NATIONAL THEMES to the intimate space of the Old Fitz Theatre. Almost three decades after Part 1, MILLENNIUM APPROACHES premiered in 1991, Dimitriadis' careful expression ensures that it is clear that Tony Kushner's Tony Award Winning story(s) still have a relevance in the 21st century.

BWW REIVEW: Apocalypse Theatre Company Delivers A Captivating And Creative Expression of Tony Kushner's Epic Play(s) ANGELS IN AMERICA: A GAY FANTASIA ON NATIONAL THEMES.
Timothy Wardell as Louis and Ben Gerrard as Prior (Photo: Robert Catto)

Split over MILLENNIUM APPROACHES and PERESTROIKA, the 7 hours of theatre is both naturalistic and profound as it centers on two couples each dealing with some significant crisis of identity and health. Gay couple of 4+ years, the WASP former Drag Queen Prior Walter (Ben Gerrard) and Jewish word processor Louis Ironson (Timothy Wardell) are faced with a future where Prior is facing the horrors of AIDS attacking his body but Louis can't cope to see his lover reduced to open sores and uncontrolled bodily functions. Married Mormon couple, Clerk at the US Court of Appeals Joe (Gus Murray) and housewife Harper Pitt (Catherine Davies) are dealing with Harper's agoraphobia fueled valium addiction and Joe's distancing himself from the marriage through long nocturnal 'walks' in the park. Added to the mix are Prior's nurse and ex-boyfriend, the African American former drag queen Belize (Joseph Althouse) and Joe's mentor and pseudo-father figure Roy Cohn (Ashley Lyons), a bigoted Jewish lawyer based on the real-life character of the same name. While Prior battles the disease that was gripping America, and the world, he is visited by his bizarre ancestors, the prior Priors and the terrifying ethereal Angel of America (Maggie Dence). At the same time, Harper is visited by Joe's very much alive mother Hannah (Jude Gibson) and Roy is visited by the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg, based on the real person of the same name who was a Jewish woman, executed for treason after Roy's involvement in her case during the McCarthy era.

BWW REIVEW: Apocalypse Theatre Company Delivers A Captivating And Creative Expression of Tony Kushner's Epic Play(s) ANGELS IN AMERICA: A GAY FANTASIA ON NATIONAL THEMES.
Catherine Davies as Harper and Joseph Althouse as Harper's hallucination, Mr Lies (Photo: Robert Catto)

Dimitriadis brings the work to life with a wonderful choreography of moving characters and set pieces around each other with surprise reveals and subtle shows of the mechanics of Jeremy Allen's impressive black set. Benjamin Brockman delivers another wonderful lighting design that captures the closeness of domestic scenes, sterility of hospitals, legal offices and New York lamp lit stoops. Allen and Brockman's collaboration to express the hallucinations, ghosts and angels are captivating and clearly delineate the living from the imagined along. Maya Keys costume design subtly expresses the characters' underlying story and character, from Belize's colorful para-silk tracksuit jacket adding a personal touch to her blue hospital scrubs and her flamboyant out of work attire to Joe's staid white business shirt and suit pants, and Hannah Pitt's conservative collared dress.

BWW REIVEW: Apocalypse Theatre Company Delivers A Captivating And Creative Expression of Tony Kushner's Epic Play(s) ANGELS IN AMERICA: A GAY FANTASIA ON NATIONAL THEMES.
Ashley Lyons as Roy Cohn and Jude Gibson as the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg (Photo: Robert Catto)

ANGELS IN AMERICA is a complex work that blends the real and the imagined to explore America in the 80's, a country that, as with other parts of the world, was being gripped by the AIDS epidemic along with dealing with ongoing issues of racial, religious, and homophobic prejudice and the compact cast deliver it with clarity and care as they manage the core characters and the doubled roles with ease. Gerrard ensures that Prior garners audience sympathy as he delivers a suitably troubled young man dealing with his abandonment by his lover and the visitations from his ancestors and the mysterious Angel. He ensures the physicality of the suffering man is presented with a realistic honesty, from tremors and expression of pain to the fear and bewilderment at his 'guests'. Wardell presents Louis with an undertone of Jewish guilt beneath the more overt fear and denial that sees him leave Prior and pick up with Joe in a relationship that further fuels his feelings of guilt.

BWW REIVEW: Apocalypse Theatre Company Delivers A Captivating And Creative Expression of Tony Kushner's Epic Play(s) ANGELS IN AMERICA: A GAY FANTASIA ON NATIONAL THEMES.
Jude Gibson as Hannah Pitt and Maggie Dence as Sister Ella Chapter (Photo: Robert Catto)

Davies tackles the detached and delusional Harper with a fantastic expression of a woman haunted by something she can't quite pinpoint. She captures the broken woman beautifully as the hallucinations become an anchor and companionship when Harper can't find it at home ensuring that the audience feel pity for the housewife. Murray captures Joe's conflicted feelings as he finally comes to terms with who he is whilst also making it clear that the Morman Legal Clerk hasn't truly shed the prejudices of his past, retaining the long-instilled homophobia despite his personal preferences. Lyons presents a suitably obnoxious Roy through both his physicality and his expression that even though he's dying of HIV, his core concern is his reputation as a political power broker is not tarnished ensures that the lawyer is seen as a villain of the piece as he fires insults with venom and prejudice. Newcomer Althouse is brilliant as the camp nurse Belize. He captures the cocky but caring New York registered nurse with a delightful flair, perfect accent and cadence of speech and carefully balanced physical expression to convey that Belize is comfortable with her queerness without turning her into a caricature.

BWW REIVEW: Apocalypse Theatre Company Delivers A Captivating And Creative Expression of Tony Kushner's Epic Play(s) ANGELS IN AMERICA: A GAY FANTASIA ON NATIONAL THEMES.
Gus Murray as Joe Pitt and Ashley Lyons as Roy Cohn (Photo: Robert Catto)

Dence is suitably imposing as the Angel of America with wild hair and maniacal expression capturing the heavenly messenger's desperation to enlist Prior's help. Her turn as Nurse Emily is delightfully comic, and she gives the unintelligible homeless woman an authentic physicality. Gibson delivers the opening monologues to MILLENIUM APPROACHES and PERESTROIKA with amazing accents that capture the elderly orthodox Rabbi Isidor Chemelwitz and the "World's Oldest Living Bolshevik" Aleksii Antedilluvianovich Prelapsarianov. Her expression of Hannah Pitt ensures the Mormon mother is seen as a formidable force. This also helps reinforce the significance of her acceptance of Prior and his visions, both surprising reactions given her response to her own son's revelation.

Whilst a theatrical marathon, clocking in at around 7 hours in total (including intervals), ANGELS IN AMERICA is an important piece of theatre and Dimitriadis ensures that the pace is maintained, keeping the audience engaged throughout. Whilst the world has generally come a long way since Kushner wrote the work which in many ways is very much of its time, ANGELS IN AMERICA still holds a relevance, possibly even increased in recent times when considering Cohn's corrupt McCarthyism era politics are potentially returning with America's Trump leadership. The work also holds a relevance beyond the central focus of the Gay community as whilst there is a focus on the Gay community, ANGELS IN AMERICA also speaks, on a more general level, to community, companionship, care and change.

With a few more weeks to run of ANGELS IN AMERICA, secure yourself tickets quickly to both MILLENNIUM APPROACHES and PERESTROIKA, you don't want to miss this event.

https://www.redlineproductions.com.au/angels-in-america

Photos: Robert Catto



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