November 01, 2007
Angels in America
Occasionally I encounter a work of art that can be described in no other way but "haunting". It hangs over me, moving me to laughter and tears long after seeing it or reading it. Angels in America is just such a work. The play, and the outstanding HBO production of it available on video, is in turns heart breaking, hysterical, nauseating, uplifting, terrifying and glorious.
It's hard not to read the play and imagine its author, Tony Kushner, an absolute genius. If you've been raised on oatmeal and Reaganomics, as I have, you'll have some personal bias to fight as this play challenges a lot of the positivism of that ideology. And it certainly does not hold to a view of a faithful or omni-benevolent God. Oh, and there's lots of homosexuality.
The truth is, when I read all those "warnings", there's no reason in the world I should like this play. But I do. No, I love it. I haven't put my finger on it yet, but there's truth here. And I don't know if I'll ever be able to boil it's themes down to a nice tidy thesis statement, but like most postmodern art, it throws forward a jumble of beauty and ugliness that add up to a radically non-linear equation of meaning. Euclid could do nothing with this play.
You cannot see this play and remain unchanged. It will either shake you or make you throw up stronger defenses for your current dogma.
It's what art can do.