Monday, December 27, 2010

Theater Review: Angels in America Part One: Millennium Approaches

Location: Signature Theatre, 555 West 42nd Street, NY, NY

Website: Official Signature Theatre site

Starring: Christian Borle, Bill Heck, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Kazan, Billy Porter, Robin Weigert, Robin Bartlett, Frank Wood

My Review: Three months after seeing the second part of Angels in America, I finally got to start at the beginning. It was a convoluted way of doing things, no doubt, but somehow that didn’t take away anything from the experience.

I already wrote an overly lengthy review of Part Two: Perestroika, so I’ll refrain from blathering on here. My overall impression of the production hasn’t changed, and seeing how I actually like the first part of the play better, seeing them out of order worked out in my favor. Part One: Millennium Approaches is the more engaging and entertaining of the two halves of Angels, as the second half tends to get a bit too preachy for my taste (which I know is a strange complaint to make about a play called Angels in America, but there it is anyway).

Zachary Quinto is more involved in the first half, so I got to form a more well-informed opinion of his performance. He made an excellent Louis, a part that’s somewhat thankless. Louis is a weak man who walks out on his lover Prior at the most critical time of his life, for primarily selfish reasons. It’s hard to feel compassion for Louis when witnessing Prior’s struggle, but Quinto manages to make him sympathetic and while not exactly redeemable in his actions, he’s at least understandable.

Christian Borle and Frank Wood are still the standouts in the cast, as Prior and the horrible Roy Cohn, and Zoe Kazan is still woefully miscast as the emotionally unstable Mormon housewife Harper, as she continues playing her like a stunted child. Billy Porter seems to have toned down the over-the-top sassiness of Belize that he had when I saw Part Two: Perestroika, and truly shines in the few scenes where he portrays Harper’s smarmy travel agent imaginary friend, Mr. Lies.

Bottom Line: There’s no question that Angels in America has become and American theater classic, evidenced especially in the fact that this “limited” run at the Signature Theater has to keep extending due to ticket demand. It’s not a flawless production, but its merits far outshine its shortcomings. And seeing how Angels is a play that doesn’t get revived often, it’s an opportunity worth jumping at. 

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