Review – Angels In America : A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, Part 2: Perestroika

Wednesday 26 April 2017

What to add to our pontifications on Tony Kushner‘s Angels in America Part 1 that we haven’t already mentioned?

That there was a long line to collect tickets as they wouldn’t issue Part 2 tickets when we collected our Part 1 ones (are they doing a Hamilton thing?). That we queued to get into the auditorium as they didn’t open the doors until 7pm for our 7pm performance. That (apart from two intervals) we were in our cheap 4th row cramped budget airline seats for much of the 4 and three-quarter hours. That’s the flying time to Greenland.

And we thank those poor people who presumably had to leave to get transport home before Act 3. We relocated to more comfortable seats (quite a few deserted) for the last leg.

Late departure? Long queues? No apologies for the delays? And the “Is your bag bigger than this” signs as you enter the auditorium? Has The National become the Ryanair of theatre?

Yes, at this first preview we finally filtered out of the auditorium at a quarter to midnight. Just in time to ensure Phil didn’t travel home in a pumpkin.

The audience ovated wildly at the end. Were we applauding our own stamina as much as that of the cast? Or was it a need to stretch our legs and a rush for the last transport home? It’s one way of ensuring a standing O.

And yet… It’s as engrossing ever. You come to the characters like a set of old friends. The ugly revolving sets have all but disappeared. Hurrah! The relatively nippy 3 hours 40 minutes of Part 1 now appears only suitable for theatre sissies.

Added to the myriad delights of Part 1, which we catalogued here, we will now mention a few further additions:

Smart writing with great gags, especially one which explains why actress Susan Brown as a Mormon mother is saddled with such bad hair and a good A Streetcar Named Desire joke. Nathan Lane spending the whole performance in bed, apart from appearing as an Angel in THE BIG SCENE towards the end when he gets short shrift on the splendid angel costumes (Nicky Gillibrand) and resembles Uncle Fester. James McArdle‘s Louis reading the riot act to Russell Tovey‘s Joseph when he discovers the truth about his connections. Tovey carefully concealing his family jewels but revealing a very pert bottom and a thankfully tattoo-free physique.

The intricate metal work above the stage that mystified us throughout Part 1 finally getting a work out (though is this visible from the circle? Do tell ). Denise Gough demolishing a bag of M&M’s in front of an “animatronic” diorama depicting the non-musical Book of Mormon story. And something we thought we’d never see, the fabulous Amanda Lawrence flying and copulating on stage with Andrew Garfield. And, err, a park bench that has eschewed the trap door of its earlier incarnation by sprouting a set of wheels.

Three cheers for the cast in Marianne Elliott‘s needs-trimming production who are, without exception, faultless. Big shout outs for the lesser-known names, Brown, Lawrence and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett who is hilarious as the-seen-it-all nurse.

What did it all mean? The climactic Heaven scene towards the end throws in so many big themes that it is hard to combobulate them at 11.30 at night. And no, we survived it all without alcohol since you ask.

The optimistic final moments in front of New York’s Bethesda fountain sees Garfield (who is brilliant throughout and skipped off hilariously at the curtain call) addressing the audience and telling us how fabulous we are. It reminded Phil of the MC in Cabaret “Even the orchestra is beautiful”.  Too “American play” for us, very of its time now and cheesier than an après ski fondue.

Despite the running time, which will presumably decrease, it remains a must-see if you can get a ticket. If you live out of town we suggest seeing a matinée.

Rating

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