Ensemble Theatre continues 'Angels in America' production
Ensemble Theatre continues its production of both parts of Tony Kushner’s masterpiece, “Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes,” with “Part Two: Perestroika” opening April 27 at the Cleveland Heights theater.
“Part One: Millennium Approaches” had its Ensemble run in January, beginning the story of a group of characters living and surviving during the rise of the AIDS epidemic in 1980s New York City. “Part Two” picks up right where “Millennium Approaches” left off—with the character of Prior (Scott Esposito) being visited by the Angel (Inés Joris).
It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity for fans of theater to be able to see a full production of “Perestroika,” especially in conjunction with “Millennium Approaches.”
Producing both shows in the same season is something that Celeste Cosentino, Ensemble’s executive artistic director, sees as a necessary undertaking, given the importance of the whole story.
“I think it makes sense to produce both parts,” Cosentino said of directing both plays. “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.”
As with all plays at Ensemble, Cosentino cast Greater 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), to play the roles in both plays, with the entire cast returning in “Perestroika.”
Both parts of “Angels in America” are considered to be two of the great American plays written in the last half-century, with “Part One” debuting on Broadway 25 years ago, quickly followed by “Part Two.”
Winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, “Millennium Approaches” was well received by critics and audiences alike when it ran at Ensemble in January. Long-time Cleveland critic Bob Abelman hailed the production, saying, “Cosentino has put together a talented cast and crew to generate a very memorable production of a truly monumental play. Bring on Part Two.”
Roy Berko summed up the production in his piece for Cool Cleveland, writing, “Combine a brilliantly written play that has a compelling purpose with an adept director, a well-conceived set, sound and lighting, and an excellent cast, and you have a first-class theater experience . . . this is a must see!”
“Angels in America, Part Two: Perestroika” runs through May 20, with performances on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m., at Ensemble Theatre, 2843 Washington Blvd.
Tyler Whidden is a playwright and associate artistic director at Ensemble Theatre. He also co-hosts "The Cleveland Stage Podcast."