Ever since its premier in 1993, the play “Angels In America” has been called many things.
Among them, “gay fantasia,” “the gay New Testament” are perhaps the most memorable and prescient.
The play follows a number of characters affected by the AIDS crisis of the 1980’s.
“Angels in America” is deeply compelling and relevant even today, a full 25 years later after its first showing.
With the LGBTQ movement in the forefront of American minds – both in senate buildings of Washington and elsewhere, one could argue that the play is even more relevant today than it was in 1993.
Written by American playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner, the play has been performed on both Broadway and London’s West End numerous times.
Despite the controversy that seems to haunt the production, which deals extensively and blatantly with topics such as AIDS and homosexuality, the show has continually wracked up nominations of all kinds, across all categories.
“Angels In America” has won both the Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award for Best Play.
Kushner himself won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the play.
In 2018, “Angels in America” also won Best Revival of a Play.
Every time a director has dared to put “Angels in America” on stage, it has won an award.
Although America’s political climate has changed immensely in the past two decades, the play remains just as well-received as it ever was, if not more so.
So what has kept audiences so deeply enraptured about this production?
What about it manages to capture our minds and our imaginations?
The play largely focuses on the life of famous political lawyer Roy Cohn, as well as several others as they collectively struggle with homosexuality, addiction and AIDs in an era when such things were shrouded in shame.
A lot has changed since “Angels in America” first came out.
For example, members of the LGBTQ community have now gained the right to marry freely and legally.
Also, people of varying ethnicities and backgrounds now have increased access to safe environments where they can proclaim their sexual identity with little fear of discrimination.
Maybe most importantly, people diagnosed with AIDS can now live with a condition that was a near-death sentence just 25 years earlier.
While incredible improvements have been made, the issues the play grapples with manage to be just as resonant, just as essential, as they were in 1985.
When asked about the AIDS epidemic in the context of the show, Denise Gough, who received a Tony nomination for her role as Harper Pitt in the 2018 revival, stated “It is never going to go out of fashion to pay homage to those men who died, and everyone who surrounded them.”
With Gough’s words in mind, the play becomes far more than the “gay fantasia” it so aptly claims to be.
Rather, “Angels In America” becomes something closer to a history lesson, something that reminds a tumultuous America of our past – primarily, so that we might never be condemned to repeat it.