Angels in America Part Two : Perestroika
Citizens Theatre Company, Headlong Theatre and the Lyric Hammersmith
Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith
At the end of seven plus hours, ignoring the dinner break, the first thing to do is salute all involved in this mighty venture. If viewers may feel a little weary, especially those who have travelled to Tony Kushner's America for a whole day rather than two halves, the cast must feel much more so.
Eight good men (and women) and true gave their all and every single one played his or her part throughout, each brightly shining periodically. Daniel Kramer, under the auspices of Headlong Theatre also excels, constantly coming up with surprises and maintaining pace, even if there are still a few rough edges.
Kramer always has an eye for the visual and dramatic, which is best displayed when the series of Angels appears, both good and evil. He also ensures that the story, which has the potential to be confusing, especially in Part 2 when unearthly experiences abound and the language gets biblical, is almost always clear.
This part takes the various ailing characters into prescription drug dreamworlds and cleverly, these overlap so characters appear in others' dreams or even in joint ones.
The two protagonists are the AIDS sufferers. Greg Hicks really comes into his own as opinionated, feisty and ultimately brave Roy Cohn, who looks the angel of death (Golda Rosheuvel) in the eye and laughs. He also builds an unlikely empathy with his antithesis, recent drama school graduate, Obi Abioli as a charitable, gay nurse named Belize.
This pair swaps insults before gaining a deeper understanding when Cohn finally lets go. However, this is not allowed to happen until after he is stripped of his pride and position as a lawyer, much to the delight of the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg. This is one of a number of roles played by Ann Mitchell, which bizarrely include two convincing cameos as bearded ancients.
The other sick man is Prior, played by American actor Mark Emerson giving his all as the suffering American everyman, who finally, like Jacob wrestles with the Angel of Death. Before that, he has to watch his former lover chasing married Joe, who has his own problems with a mad wife and stern mum hindering his out-ing.
There are longueurs but not too many, before we get to a generally hopeful ending to what is a major theatrical event. Those who see Angels in America will long remember the experience and it is to be hoped that most will have been impressed by what is a carefully planned and well-delivered (afternoon and) evening.
Angels in America is a heady mix of the surreal and the all too real, presenting a big picture in language that is exciting and frequently dramatic. It is long but, like the work of Robert Lepage, sustains audiences by immersing them in a world and providing a holistic experience which is so rewarding that duration is almost irrelevant.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher