'Angels in America' spreads its wings at Ensemble Theatre
Both parts of Tony Kushner’s masterpiece "Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes" will be staged at Ensemble Theatre this year, with "Part One: Millennium Approaches" opening Jan. 5.
Ensemble's Executive Artistic Director Celeste Cosentino is directing both parts of "Angels in America," with the follow-up, "Part Two: Perestroika," opening April 27 with the same cast of Cleveland actors. Both shows will run four weekends.
“I think it makes sense to produce both parts,” Cosentino said of the undertaking. “It’s really one big story, and I’m excited for the opportunity to provide audiences with the chance to watch the characters’ entire journey.”
Considered by many to be one of the best American plays of the last half-century, the 1993 Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winner follows the lives of several people living in New York City during the rise of the AIDS epidemic in the late 1980s. The play’s themes of sexual identity, religious identity, and life after death all play out under the umbrella of the Reagan era, when homophobia and fear of an unknown disease was commonplace.
Cosentino sees many similarities with the current political climate making "Angels" still very relevant for today’s audiences.
“These characters struggle in a society that does not allow them to be who they are,” Cosentino said. “Not unlike today’s administration, the Reagan administration relied heavily on demagoguery and false idealism. Unfortunately, there are those who are still in power continuing to dismantle hard-won progress in the arena of civil and human rights. This play shows us we still have a ways to go.”
As for all plays at Ensemble, Cosentino cast Cleveland-based actors, including Derdriu Ring (Hannah), Jeff Grover (Roy Cohn), Kelly Strand (Harper), Scott Esposito (Prior), Robert Hunter (Belize), James Rankin (Joe), Craig Joseph (Louis), and Inés Joris (Angel), with many of them playing multiple characters throughout this theatrical opus.
“Kushner’s language is poetic and inspired,” Cosentino said. “He uses such imagery and theatricality . . . like a painter using the richest of their colors. It is a great honor to direct such a monumental and vivid work, which has earned its status as an American classic with its reach and scope. It is not to be missed."
"Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches" runs through Jan. 28, with performances on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m., at Ensemble Theatre, 2843 Washington Blvd.
For tickets and information, call 216-321-2930, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.ensembletheatrecle.org.
Tyler Whidden is a playwright and associate artistic director at Ensemble Theatre.