Article Title:Review: Angels In America, Act I - Millenium Approaches
Author or Credit:Nykki Porteous
Published on:23rd March 2014 - 11:43 am
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Story ID:14806
Text:A Silo Theatre production at Q Theatre, Auckland 22 March 2014 Holy frikken powerful play Batman! Blood, hope, angels, racial slurs, lesions, Mormons, sodomy, republicans and Rabbis – all on stage. Naked truth, naked humour, naked men. Please bear with me, I hope to be able to articulate better as my pulse slows. Let’s start at the beginning. Silo Theatre presented part one of Angels in America tonight at Q Theatre in Auckland. My husband and I walked into the bar with preconceived notions as we had watched the six hour mini-series earlier in the week. We got our tickets and saw that there were condoms being given away at the box office. Excellent marketing and I heartily approve. I grabbed a handful for the guest room; which is ironic as our most frequent overnight guests are lesbians. But, I digress. With our tickets and our condoms, we were presented with a marketing pamphlet from MAC. Brilliant! A major theme throughout the play is – well. AIDs. And, MAC cosmetics has raised over $300 million dollars for AIDS research and relief through their Viva Glam lipstick and lip gloss. Even if the play was total shite (which is NOT the case) I would recommend it for the awareness factor alone. Be aware, spread the word and not the disease. You can do even more to help with a sassy new lippie. Just saying. So, we were walking around the bar, feeling a little out of place with all of the smart and beautiful people conversing wittily. (Bree from Shortland Street was behind my husband in the line for the bar!! God she’s pretty.) I felt like a yahoo from Wyoming. But, being American, I did crack up a little at the special “NY” menu that Citizen Q restaurant put out in honour of the show. Filter coffee, Manhattans, hot dogs and bagels with cream cheese and salmon (otherwise known as lox and schmear people!) It was very charming and obvious that a lot of thought and effort was put into every aspect of tonight’s performance. The three chimes went off! We were escorted to our seats, making nice nice with everyone around us, anticipating the start of the show when that inevitable asshole, who sits in the middle of the row yet had to have a last smelly cigarette before pushing his way past 25 already seated and more polite people, stepped on my foot. Seriously??? And you did it again at intermission. I have yet to attend a live performance, whether it be musical, rodeo, recital or a play in Auckland where the audience shows proper etiquette. It’s rather disheartening. Very special kudos to the fart knuckle in the third row who’s ringing phone interrupted the opening eulogy. And now to the play. Yup, it opens with a eulogy! There’s no curtain. Just a simple set. Beautiful and strong. Black granite?? It brings to mind the stark beauty and pain of the Vietnam memorial in Washington DC. Apropos really. I may be the only one in the audience who made that connection, but that connection set a silent emotional tone. The sound that blew out of the speakers however, did not. It just startled me and hurt my ears. (The sound is my only real complaint of the show. Moving in between scenes, lovely music was piped in – wayyyy too loud. It took a while for the ears and the brain to adjust to the disparate levels of sound between the music and the dialogue, so rather than adding to the emotional ambience - it interrupted flow. Nor did the overpowering music distract from the scene change.) So the Rabbi steps on stage, your ears stop ringing from the music, the Rabbi delivers his opening lines, fart knuckle’s phone rings and then you sort of quietly get swept away in memories, guilts, life lessons… that is until Steven Lovatt takes the stages as Ray Cohn. Ray Cohn, the real life republican lawyer and McCarthyist sleazebag is brought on bigger than life. Without spoilers – Lovatt gives this hateful (and only historical) character depth and dimension. In a particularly disturbing scene, Ray gets a diagnosis of HIV. From the audience, I could see the realization of his homosexual death sentence crawl across his face – then a tiny shake of his head before the overbearing lawyer kicks in to change the rules in one powerful monologue. You see, Roy Cohn cannot have AIDS because Roy Cohn is NOT a homosexual. Roy Cohn is a very powerful man who happens to have sex with other men. He is not a homosexual but does have liver cancer??? “What I am is defined by who I am.” By the time Lovatt was done – I almost believed the BS. Andrew Malmo Photography Harper Pitt is my favourite character. Thoughtfully portrayed by Chelsie Preston Crayford, Harper is adorably kooky. Her facial expressions are so lost, yet engaging; that you don’t worry overmuch about trying to figure out what the hell she’s saying. (It’s profound and not much at the same time, her being a little nuts and a lot sedated!) Crayford, as Harper, moves from confused to angry to vindictive with an almost innocence that makes you want to befriend her – even if it’s just to keep an eye on her! Andrew Malmo Photography Jarod Rawiri plays the two most “out there” characters. Belize and Mr. Lies. Immediately you are struck by his stage presence and the wiggle of his hips. I wanted to applaud him every time he sauntered off stage! But, later in the play his calm yet camp delivery brought weight to a very important argument on racism and loyalty. Louis’ character drives me so bonkers with his whiny woody allenesque guilt and paranoia that I completely tuned out this scene in the famed HBO movie. But Dan Musgrove (Louis) was so frenetic and desperate in his need for validation that you couldn’t help but process and gasp at some of the crap coming out of his mouth. Matt Minto plays Joe Pitt. Frankly, I can’t warm up to Joe Pitt. I just don’t like him. I think he’s a whiny little bitch. But… it’s not Minto’s acting – it’s my aversion to the character. Minto did make me scream with laughter playing a sarcastic Scottish (I think – I suck at identifying accents) ghost from medieval times who died from the plague. Gareth Reeves plays Prior Walter – the lead. The man with AIDs. And dang he’s charming. I realize he’s gay, but I am a hag from waaayyy back and have fallen a little bit in love with the campy sophisticate. You will too, as he will invariably remind you of someone… Andrew Malmo Photography I haven’t touched on all of the actors, and I’ve not done justice to some that I’ve already described. I’m still getting to know the characters… and each actor plays multiple characters. There is an immense pool of talent on that stage. It’s intimidating. It’s hysterical. It’s raw. It’s often hard to watch. Every actor that has taken the stage has done something brave. Whether it be to take off their clothes, punch out a wall, recreate reality or paint the cold for us with some ravings and a shopping cart – each actor has exceeded my expectation. An expectation that I gained from watching Streep, Pacino and Emma Thompson in the movie… Exceeded, because they each made the characters their own. SCENE 2 Scene 2 is not for the faint hearted. It opens with blood. Lots of blood and pain and despair. It is a helluva slap out of intermission which was filled with champagne cocktails and handbag chatter. Between the hospital admittance and racist argument, there is an angry, brutal, anonymous sodomy encounter playing alongside a hospital scene. It is powerful. It is painful. However – it ends with a sissy slap?! That little “aw shucks” slap at the end of the most xxxxxx (I can’t even think of a word strong enough to describe this scene) didn’t do justice to the pain of the moment or the message that should have been delivered with the slap. Scene 2 is definitely not for the faint hearted, but luckily we get to meet the ghosts of Prior’s ancestors – and roll with laughter at their antics. Scene 3 Aaaah. Snow in Manhattan (on stage in Auckland!) It’s everything it should be. Glittery and magical and black. (I’m not sure if there’s some clever, psychological theatre reasoning behind the black snow. I used up all of my “I’m-a-deep-artist-and-see-things-you-couldn’t-possibly-understand” vibe on the Vietnam Memorial comparison. All I know is that it was STUNNING on stage!) Besides, like Harper said, “All of this is made up… so if the snow feels cold, I’m pregnant. Right?” At the end of Scene 3, we finally get to meet the angel. It’s a series of moments fraught with drama. Flickering lights, revolving beds, LOUD LOUD music, the stage falling apart while crap falls from the sky. It was quite overwhelming. It was too bad that we couldn’t hear the angel’s lines because the music and destruction was so loud. Andrew Malmo Photography So, through my babbling, I hope I haven’t given too much away but have piqued your curiosity enough to go see the show. I always thought I was very theatre savvy - having been on stage, behind it and a lifelong enthusiast. But apparently I have been stuck inside my own Disney musical for way too long. I’ve never seen anything like this on stage. Can’t even imagine the fortitude it took to portray live. Don’t get me wrong – there is so much humour in the show that you don’t have to despair… but it is HARSH. It is also very timely. 180 new HIV diagnoses a year in New Zealand. Spread the word, not the disease! Angels in America is a historic show – as it is the last that Shane Bosher is doing with Silo theatre. It’s being shown in 2 parts up through April 13th. Tickets are $35-$65, and well worth it. Get tickets here. It is spectacular. (But maybe don’t sit next to your mother. And bring a tissue)- Nykki Porteous with some reminders from hubby Dave.   Nykki Porteous - 23rd March 2014    
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