April 25, 2017

A British Take on an American Classic

Photo courtesy of playbill.com

by Elizabeth Jancsy ’18

A&E Staff

The American classic has made its way across the pond, as London’s National Theatre prepares to open its doors for the premiere of Angels in America on April 11, 2017. Written by Tony Kushner, this Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play follows the relationships of two couples, Prior and Louis and Joe and Harper, in New York City, touching upon themes of homosexuality, AIDS, and the supernatural in the 1980s.

The entire two-part play debuted on Broadway in 1993, directed by George C. Wolfe, before becoming an HBO miniseries of the same name in 2003. Now, almost 24 years later from the original debut the play is returning to the stage in London.

Directed by two-time Tony Award winner Marianne Elliot, the National Theatre will have its turn at tackling the six hour production with only the best of the best on stage. The cast list consists of stage veterans such as Nathan Lane (Guys and Dolls, The Producers) and Andrew Garfield (Death of a Salesman), as well as Denise Gough (People, Places, and Things).

Upon the National Theatre’s announcement of the production, Garfield released a statement to Playbill. “I feel tremendously grateful and healthily daunted at the prospect of being back in a rehearsal room at the NT to attempt to scale the mountain of Tony Kushner’s masterpiece Angels in America,” he said. Garfield will be playing the role of Prior Walter, a man suffering from AIDS, which ultimately affects his relationship with his partner Louis.

Unlike past stage adaptations, new elements will be added to the National Theatre’s production of Angels in America; perhaps the biggest one of all is the chance to see it on screen. Along with the announcement of the show’s stage dates, the National Theatre also released broadcast dates, revealing that the show will be filmed during a performance and screened around the world. This is a  new approach to enjoying live theatre; now the ones who were not lucky enough to obtain a ticket can watch it from the comfort of a movie theater reclining chair.

The need to reach a wider audience is not just simply because of the show’s star-studded cast, but rather its message of toleration and acceptance. Nathan Lane, playing the role of Roy Cohan, a closeted lawyer, released a statement on the matter to Playbill. “I am very honored to be making my NT debut with such a distinguished cast under the direction of the brilliant Marianne Elliott in Tony Kushner’s masterpiece,” he said. “In light of recent political events here in the U.S., I can’t think of a better or more timely play to be doing.”

Although one cannot deny the giddiness in hearing names such as Lane and Garfield, the lessons learned in the play are far more important to take out of this opportunity. Garfield also added, “What a gift to work on and offer up this play that feels so urgent at this very moment, for all of our souls.”

A play like Angels in America proves that the power of theatre can reach more than just one audience, for it has the power to reach the world. Part One of the play, Millennium Approaches, will be in cinemas July 20 and Part Two, Perestroik, will premiere July 27 in participating theaters.

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