Friday, December 19, 2003

angels in america, part 1

We finally finished watching all of the HBO production of Tony Kushner's play.
As a dramatic play, it is wildly ambitious, breaking though the unities of time, space and location, akin to Thorton Wilder's Our Town and Skin of our Teeth, although with an attitude. Kushner mixes up gay culture, Mormanism, Marxism, dreams and visions, borrowing right and left. At times we listen to speeches and orations, constructed from all the above, and it is like being fascinated by the words of a crazy person giving impassioned words that have little exterior meaning to us, the momentary attracting coming from the force of what is said, the oddness of the words or image (think of certain portion's of Britten's Rejoice in the Lamb based on poetry by the sometimes deranged Christopher Smart.

I saw the first play in New York, and then both plays at Signature Theater in Arlington, VA (a jewel of a theater company), and I was afraid that what had been written in the moment of AIDS in the 80s would sound dated and odd now.

Movies also have a way of deadening the magic of live theater.

For the most part, the movie version actually broke free of the play in good ways. There are moments when the actual visualization doesn't do justice to the word images (the whole drag queen and 20 professional Sicilian mourners funeral sounds much funnier than it looks when we actually see it). The descending feather at the end of the first play has much more impact on a stage than it does in a movie. We imagine less in movies, and imagination is one of the most powerful effects one experiences in a play.

No comments: