kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
[personal profile] kate_nepveu
Having seen Angels in America live (Boston, November 1995, first national tour) and on screen, this Thursday I split the difference and saw the currently-running London production on tape-delay live-stream in a movie theater. (Part one, that is; part two is this Thursday.) I don't love it but it's interesting to see the staging. Also Kushner has, per the intro to the combined ebook version I have but hadn't read until now, made unspecified changes to part two, so I will be reading that before Thursday so I won't be distracted while watching. (While I only skimmed part one, the only difference I saw between the text and this production was the dropping of the homeless woman's jokes.)

Here are some notes, cut for spoilers and lack of interest:

The main cast:

Prior Walter (also the man in the park): Andrew Garfield
Louis Ironson: James McArdle
Joseph Pitt (also Prior I): Russell Tovey
Harper Pitt (also Martin the Justice Dep't lawyer): Denise Gough
Belize (also Mr. Lies): Nathan Stewart-Jarrett
Roy Cohn (also Prior II): Nathan Lane
Hannah Pitt (also the rabbi, Roy's doctor Henry, and Ethel Rosenberg): Susan Brown
The Angel (also Emily the Nurse, Sister Ella Chapter the realtor, and the Homeless Woman): Amanda Lawrence

(Huh, I didn't realize that Louis isn't doubled at all, except as one of the angels in part two.)

Of these, the portrayal of Roy is extremely good. (Way better than Pacino's, that's for sure.)

The Angel does have a beautiful voice, which both of the productions I've seen had a hard time with (the live production had so much reverb you couldn't tell what she was saying, and Emma Thompson . . . all I remember of her performance is that her accent was wobbly as the nurse.)

Louis, Harper, and Hannah are all fine.

Belize . . . I'm putting a pin in Belize because I'm not sure if it's the production or the role, I need to come back to that after part two.

Joe creates much less personal sympathy in me than usual for part one.

And Prior . . . look, I don't know if it's just that I know that Garfield said some dumb-ass things about being a straight guy playing this role. But I could not get into his portrayal. He's chosen to use a throaty voice which -- fairly or unfairly -- feels artificial and distracting to me. It's not a question of authenticity, it's a question of trust, I guess.

The staging: most of the play, the stage is divided into a few sections that have partial walls on them, which rotate to be different locations. Unfortunately, the double breakup scene is staged to be physically overlapping as well as overlapping in time, which did not work at all for me: having them all in the same field of view emphasized the points where one couple wasn't speaking and should have been, instead of letting me look back and forth.

The lighting is very tight on each section, and often is rather harsh (or possibly this is the effect of bumping it up for the cameras, as mentioned in the article up top); at any rate, there are a few times when an actor is more in shadow than is optimal. This is particularly a problem for Belize, alas.

When Harper comes to Antarctica, that part of the stage . . . recedes, I think, and she steps down into a wide flat empty expanse. That stays wide flat and empty for the rest of the play; Roy's apartment rises up out of the ground, a wide shallow expanse very close to the front of the stage, for that part, and then recedes again to make room for the ending in Prior's apartment.

The Angel doesn't fly. She crashes in on a blinding flash and then rises up on some kind of scaffolding, either made of, or steadied by, four people in dark outfits who are credited as "Angel Shadow." (Making the Angel fly is apparently hellaciously difficult, no surprise.)

There are various encore presentations going to be happening, if you missed this and are interested.

Date: Sunday, July 23rd, 2017 06:30 am (UTC)
sovay: (Morell: quizzical)
From: [personal profile] sovay
some dumb-ass things about being a straight guy playing this role.

Wow, context matters. I ran across the "gay . . . without the physical act" in a context that did not mention that the actor was straight and took it to mean he was bi and had just never been in a relationship with a man. Which seemed perfectly reasonable to me. And apparently not at all what he meant.

Date: Monday, July 24th, 2017 12:00 am (UTC)
sovay: (Morell: quizzical)
From: [personal profile] sovay
Huh, that would never have occurred to me, possibly because I would never call myself a lesbian.

I wouldn't, either, but I know there are a lot more issues with men identifying as bi than with women doing the same, so it was the first place my mind went. Oh, well.

Date: Monday, July 24th, 2017 01:29 pm (UTC)
wordweaverlynn: (bi)
From: [personal profile] wordweaverlynn
Thanks for your commentary. You've given me some things to ponder when I see the second half this Thursday.

I've never seen the play before and only read it this week, and I'm so overwhelmed by the play itself that I don't have much critical distance yet. My response to the production was almost pure wonder. It's not just that Nathan Lane is glorious as Roy Cohn, or that I have powerful sympathy for the closeted characters and for the women. The language is vivid and beautiful -- yet for the most part clearly real-people dialogue. I am impressed.

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