“I enjoy the challenge of it all,” said Stuart Landon, producing artistic director of Open Stage. And his upcoming production of the iconic play by Tony Kushner Angels in America, Part 1 & Part 2 is indeed a worthy challenge.
“Angels in America is one of the most important plays of the 20th century,” Landon said, explaining that “the sheer size of the production requires a big cast, special effects, and multiple layers of talent that must come together each performance.”
The play, Landon said, “gives us glimpse into the recent past, a chance to look at the situations presented.” Having won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Tony Award for Best Play, and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, Angels premiered in 1991 and its Broadway opening was in 1993.
Complex, often metaphorical, and at times a symbolic examination of AIDS and homosexuality in America in the 1980s, Landon points out that the play allows audiences to see into several storylines, some of which occasionally intersect.
Certain major and minor characters are supernatural beings are angels or deceased persons or ghosts. The play contains multiple roles for several of the actors. Initially and primarily focusing on a Manhattan gay couple, the play also has several other storylines, and that’s where the story intersections occur.
In order to capture the zeitgeist of the play’s setting, members of the community active during the early AIDS Crisis spent time with cast members, many younger and therefore acting out parts without similar lived experiences.There are two parts to the play which will be presented separately by Open Stage, although the play can also be presented as one show. The parts are entitled Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, respectively. They have been adapted into an HBOminiseries of the same title. The Seattle Times listed the series as among "Best of the filmed AIDS portrayals" on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of AIDS. Playwright John M. Clum called Angels "a turning point in the history of gay drama, the history of American drama, and of American literary culture.”
Considering the length and breathe of the play, Landon said,” It’s important for us to ask the big questions, the ones without easy answers.”
Plays like Angels, he noted “Help us understand that people are messy, the past is messy, and times in which we live are messy.” Still, though all the messiness, “We can see legitimate parallels or departures to the present.”
Landon’s read and reread the play and in the spirit of the script he’s asked himself, and hopes audiences will ask Where do each of us see ourselves in the drama taking place before our eyes? An angel? Caregiver? Lover? Then? Now? In the future?
Angels will be presented against the backdrop of a re-imagined facility, now with a lounge and newly curated spaces for a variety of creative activities.