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Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes: Part One: Millennium Approaches Part Two: Perestroika Paperback – November 1, 2003

4.4 out of 5 stars 97 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Tony Kushner's Angels in America is that rare entity: a work for the stage that is profoundly moving yet very funny, highly theatrical yet steeped in traditional literary values, and most of all deeply American in its attitudes and political concerns. In two full-length plays--Millennium Approaches and Perestroika--Kushner tells the story of a handful of people trying to make sense of the world. Prior is a man living with AIDS whose lover Louis has left him and become involved with Joe, an ex-Mormon and political conservative whose wife, Harper, is slowly having a nervous breakdown. These stories are contrasted with that of Roy Cohn (a fictional re-creation of the infamous American conservative ideologue who died of AIDS in 1986) and his attempts to remain in the closet while trying to find some sort of personal salvation in his beliefs.

But such a summary does not do justice to Kushner's grand plan, which mixes magical realism with political speeches, high comedy with painful tragedy, and stitches it all together with a daring sense of irony and a moral vision that demands respect and attention. On one level, the play is an indictment of the government led by Ronald Reagan, from the blatant disregard for the AIDS crisis to the flagrant political corruption. But beneath the acute sense of political and moral outrage lies a meditation on what it means to live and die--of AIDS, or anything else--in a society that cares less and less about human life and basic decency. The play's breadth and internal drive is matched by its beautiful writing and unbridled compassion. Winner of two Tony Awards and the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for drama, Angels in America is one of the most outstanding plays of the American theater. --Michael Bronski --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Angels in America has proved to be a watershed drama, the most lyrical and ambitious augury of an era since Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie.” –John Lahr, New Yorker

"A vast, miraculous play... provocative, witty and deeply upsetting... a searching and radical rethinking of American political drama." -Frank Rich, New York Times

"Daring and dazzling! The most ambitious America play of our time: an epic that ranges from earth to heaven; focuses on politics, sex, and religion; transports us to Washington, the Kremlin, the South Bronx, Salt Lake City and Antarctica; deals with Jews, Mormons, WASPs, blacks; switches between realism and fantasy, from the tragedy of AIDS to the camp comedy of drag queens to the death or at least absconding of God…Angels in America is the broadest, deepest, most searching American play of our time." - Jack Kroll, Newsweek

“Few plays have captured the spirit of an age more powerfully than Angels in America…and the passage of time has not clipped Angels’ wings.” –Paul Taylor, Independent (London)

“Something rare, dangerous, and harrowing…a roman candle hurled into a drawing room.” –Nicholas de Jongh, London Evening Standard

Angels breaks all the rules to achieve the astonishing integrity of its vision…It is a play that has remained utterly of-the-moment.” –Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg

“The most influential American play of the last two decades.” –Patrick Healy, New York Times

“That Angels came so close to the burning heart of the Zeitgeist left Kushner fearing he would never get there again. But in fact he has been there so often that he seems to have passed right through it…Angels, so much a cry in the dark about AIDS when it was written, seems now to be as much about the Earth’s potentially fatal illness as gay men’s.” –Jesse Green, New York

“The greatest American play of the waning years of the twentieth century.” –Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Theatre Communications Group; 1 edition (November 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559362316
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559362313
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on August 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
Tony Kushner's two part epic play "Angels in America" is
truly a landmark of United States literature. The two parts of the
play (subtitled "Millennium Approaches" and
"Perestroika") together represent a passionate and
intelligent exploration of American life during the era of President
Ronald Reagan. Kushner peoples his play with individuals who are for
the most part "marginal" in some way in U.S. culture. His
characters include Mormons, gay men, men with AIDS, Jews, a drug
addict, and an African-American drag queen. These various perspectives
and voices allow Kushner to create some fascinating dialogues about
the "American dream"--and about the nightmares that can go
along with it.

Kushner's cast of characters is excellently drawn, but
perhaps his most astounding creation is influential lawyer Roy Cohn, a
fictionalized version of a real historical figure. A gay Jew who is
himself viciously homophobic, Kushner's Cohn is grotesque, hilarious,
frightening, and seductive all at once. This character allows Kushner
to make fascinating statements about power, politics, and sexual

Also brilliant is Kushner's use of Mormonism and its
theology as an integral component of the play. Kushner is the first
literary artist I know of who has used Mormon themes and motifs in
such a consistently compelling and intelligent way. Kushner is, in my
opinion, neither a proselytizer for nor a basher of Mormonism, but his
presentation of troubled Mormon characters and his apparent satirizing
of some aspects of Mormon theology both strike me as potentially
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Before picking up this book I had already categorized and stereotyped the plot, characters, and anticipated my reaction. I visualized a sob story featuring homosexuals who are misunderstood by society, I pictured stereotypical gay men with high-pitched voices, I knew this story would not make my top-ten list. But I have never been more wrong or judgemental about anything I've ever read.
Tony Kushner's "Angels in America" may be one of the most touching accounts depicting American society that i have ever been invited to read. Life is not "sugar-coated" in this play, rather the truth is plainly put out on the table for all to see. The characters in this play are close to the heart and teach us that only the truth will set us free. They are unlikely, yet fitting angels for our generation. We meet Prior, a lonely man dying of AIDS who is the epitome of truth, chosen to prophesize to the masses. Louis and Joe who are both so different yet the same, both realizing the power of the "threshold of revelation". Roy, whose deceptiveness is the cause of his undoing, and Harper who is trapped in a world where the truth has no existence. Yet all of their lives are interconnected by a desire to make sense of the world around them.
Amidst politics and controversy, high drama and comedic relief the characters remaining at the play's end have determined a better sense of self and what it means to be "real". I walked away from Kushner's "Angels" with a better sense of my own self and a more open mind. It was written with a compassion and sensitivity unlike any I've ever known or experienced. "Angels in America" is perhaps one of the most touching theatrical works of its day.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Still timely - the plight of AIDs victims is a symbol of the high cost of the loss of community (Reaganism) in modern America and dangers of self-interest (Reaganism and Ayn Rand, the latter via Roy Cohn); and, ultimately, of the triumph of the human desire for "More Life" (Prior, Belize, Hannah, Louis). God has abandoned heaven; the Angels want him back; the price is human life (we must "stop moving"). We suggest that the Angels sue God (as opposed to Cohn's advice that everyone sue someone just for fun - wonderful discussion of law v justice in this text).

Definitely read both plays - Millennium Approaches and Peteroiska - because the themes in the first are developed and resolved in the latter. I taught the play to my college students: it really helps if they also watch the HBO production (it is a play, after all, not a novel). My students were bewildered at first, but the HBO version clarified much for them. I think that they ended up really loving Angels and will be thinking for a long time about its important themes. (They all loved Prior a lot.)

Finally, for the theory wonks and those teaching the play at college level: a major influence on Kushner's own work was Walter Benjamin's "The Work of Art in An Age of Mechanical Reproduction." Kushner has stated in interviews that the name, "Prior Walter," is derived from a joking reference to Benjamin between Kushner and a friend. An interesting essay assignment might be to examine the connections betweem Benjamin's theories and Angels. (I'm sure Kushner would think such a comparison totally beside the point - but a wonk is a wonk, and I teach theory (-;
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