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Angels in America

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Angels in America
Written byTony Kushner
CharactersPrior Walter
Roy Cohn
Joe Pitt
Harper Pitt
Hannah Pitt
Louis Ironson
Ethel Rosenberg
Homeless Woman
Date premieredMay 1991
Place premieredEureka Theatre Company
San Francisco, California
Original languageEnglish
SettingNew York City, Salt Lake City, and elsewhere, 1985–1986
Angels in America: Perestroika
Written byTony Kushner
CharactersPrior Walter
Roy Cohn
Joe Pitt
Harper Pitt
Hannah Pitt
Louis Ironson
Ethel Rosenberg
Homeless Woman
Date premieredNovember 8, 1992
Place premieredMark Taper Forum
Los Angeles, California
Original languageEnglish
SettingNew York City, the Kremlin, heaven, and elsewhere, 1986–1990

Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes is a 1991 American two-part play by American playwright Tony Kushner. The two parts of the play, Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, may be presented separately. The work won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Tony Award for Best Play, and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play. Part one of the play premiered in 1991, followed by part two in 1992.[1] Its Broadway opening was in 1993.[1]

The play is a complex, often metaphorical, and at times symbolic examination of AIDS and homosexuality in the United States in the 1980s. Certain major and minor characters are supernatural beings (angels) or deceased persons (ghosts). The play contains multiple roles for several actors. Initially and primarily focusing on one gay and one straight couple in Manhattan, the plot has several additional storylines, some of which intersect occasionally.

In 1994, playwright and professor of theater studies John M. Clum called the play "a turning point in the history of gay drama, the history of American drama, and of American literary culture".[2]

In 2003, HBO adapted Angels in America into a six-episode miniseries of the same title. In the Sunday, June 25, 2006, edition of The Record, in an article headlined “An AIDS anniversary: 25 years in the arts”, Bill Ervolino listed the miniseries among the 12 best filmed portrayals of AIDS to date.[3]

In 2017, the play received a much-acclaimed West End revival that won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Revival in 2018. Later that year the production transferred to Broadway, where it received eleven Tony Award nominations, the most ever received by a play at the time. It won three awards: Best Revival of a Play; Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Play, for Andrew Garfield; and Best Actor in a Featured Role in a Play, for Nathan Lane.

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  • Angels in America Act 1 Prior and Louis "KS, Baby" Scene
  • Angels In America [ Official HBO Trailer ]



Part One: Millennium Approaches

Set in New York City, the play takes place between October 1985 and February 1986.[4] The play begins at a funeral, where an elderly rabbi eulogizes the deceased woman's entire generation of immigrants who risked their lives to build a community in the United States. Soon after, the deceased's grandson, Louis Ironson, learns that his lover Prior Walter, the last member of an old stock American family, has AIDS. As Prior's illness progresses, Louis becomes unable to cope, and he abandons Prior during a health episode that lands him in the hospital. Prior is given emotional support by his friend Belize, a hospital nurse and ex-drag queen, who separately also deals with Louis's self-castigating guilt and myriad excuses for leaving Prior.

Joe Pitt, a Mormon Republican clerk in the same judge's office where Louis holds a word-processing job, is offered a position in Washington, D.C. by his mentor, the McCarthyist lawyer and power broker Roy Cohn. Joe hesitates to accept due to his agoraphobic, Valium-addicted wife Harper, who refuses to relocate. Feeling adrift and undesired by Joe, Harper retreats into drug-fueled escapist fantasies, including a dream where she crosses paths with Prior even though the two of them have never met in the real world. She confronts Joe about his deeply-closeted homosexuality, which he views as a sin. Torn by pressure from Roy and a burgeoning infatuation with Louis, Joe drunkenly comes out to his conservative mother Hannah, who reacts by changing the subject and hanging up the phone. Concerned for her son, she sells her house in Salt Lake City and travels to New York. After Joe confesses his homosexuality to a drug-addled Harper and leaves her, she flees their apartment and wandering the streets of Brooklyn, believing she is in Antarctica. Joe sets out to look for her, but follows Louis to Central Park, where they tentatively begin an affair.

Meanwhile, Roy Cohn discovers that he has advanced AIDS and is dying. Defiantly refusing to publicly admit he is gay or has AIDS, Roy instead declares he has liver cancer. Facing disbarment for misappropriating money from a client, Roy is determined to beat the case so he can die a lawyer in good standing, and he attempts to position Joe in the Department of Justice to ensure the case is quashed. When Harper disappears and Joe refuses his offer, Roy flies into a rage and collapses in pain. As he awaits transport to the hospital, he is haunted by the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg, whom he prosecuted in her trial for espionage, and who was executed after Roy illegally lobbied the judge for the death penalty.

Prior begins to experience intense dreams and visions as his health worsens. He hears the voice of an angel telling him to prepare for her arrival, a flaming book erupts from the floor during a medical check-up, and he receives visits from the ghosts of two ancestral Prior Walters, informing him that he is a divine prophet. Prior does not know if these visitations are hallucinations caused by an emotional breakdown or if they are real. At the end of Part One, a glorious winged Angel crashes through Prior's bedroom ceiling, addresses him as "Prophet", and proclaims that "the Great Work" has begun.

Part Two: Perestroika

The play begins with a speech given by the world's oldest living Bolshevik, Aleksii Antedilluvianovich Prelapsarianov, addressing a crowd in Moscow in December 1985. He condemns the reforms proposed by Mikhail Gorbachev, decrying the notion of progress without political theory, and declaring that the only way forward is to not move.

At the funeral of a friend, a shaken Prior relates his encounter with the Angel to Belize. After revealing the presence of a mystical book underneath the tile in Prior's kitchen, the Angel reveals to him that Heaven is a beautiful city that resembles San Francisco, and God, described as a great flaming Aleph, created the universe through copulation with His angels, who are all-knowing but unable to create or change on their own. God, bored with the angels, made mankind with the power to change and create. The progress of mankind on Earth caused Heaven to suffer earthquake-like tremors and physically deteriorate. Finally, on the day of the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, God abandoned Heaven. The Angel brings Prior a message for mankind—"stop moving!"—in the belief that if man ceases to progress, Heaven will be restored. Since the night of his vision, his health has once again started to decline. Belize believes that Prior is projecting his own fears of abandonment and death into an elaborate hallucination, but Prior suspects that his illness is the prophecy taking physical form, and that the only way the Angel can force him to deliver her message is for him to die.

Roy lands at the hospital in the care of Belize, where his condition rapidly declines. He manages to use his political clout to acquire a private stash of the experimental drug AZT, at the expense of withholding the drug from participants in a drug trial. Alone in the hospital and fighting disbarment, Roy finds himself increasingly isolated, with only Belize, who despises him, and the ghost of Ethel for company.

Prior goes to a Mormon visitor's center to research angels, where he meets Hannah, who is volunteering there and taking care of Harper, who has slowly returned to reality but is now deeply depressed. Harper and Prior share a spark of recognition from their earlier shared dream, and witness a vision of Joe and Louis together. Louis is aghast to learn that Joe is a practicing Mormon and, regretting his actions and resistant to the intensity of Joe's infatuation, begins to withdraw from Joe. He begs Prior's forgiveness, which Prior angrily refuses, and Prior, who knows about Louis' affair with Joe from his vision, becomes deeply hurt that Louis is attempting to move on.

Joe visits Roy, who is near death, and receives a final, paternal blessing from his mentor. However, when Joe confesses he has left Harper for a man, Roy rejects him in a violent reaction of fear and rage, ordering him to return to his wife and cover up his indiscretion. Joe returns to Harper and they have an unsatisfying sexual encounter, which prompts Harper to realize their marriage is over.

Prior, accompanied by Belize, jealously confronts a confused Joe at work, but the encounter descends into chaos when Belize recognizes Joe as Roy's protegee. Belize informs Louis about Joe's connection with Roy, whom Louis despises. Louis, as a result, researches Joe's legal history and confronts him over a series of hypocritical and homophobic decisions Joe himself wrote. The confrontation turns violent, and Joe punches Louis in the face, ending their affair.

Ethel Rosenberg watches Roy suffer and decline before delivering the final blow as he lies dying: He has been disbarred after all. Delirious, Roy seems to mistake Ethel for his mother, begging her to comfort him, and Ethel sings a Yiddish lullaby as Roy appears to pass away. However, with a sudden burst of energy, he reveals that he has tricked her, viciously declaring that he has finally beaten her. He then suffers a stroke and dies. After Roy's death, Belize forces Louis to visit Roy's hospital room, where they steal his stash of AZT for Prior. Belize asks Louis to recite the Kaddish for Roy. Unseen by the living, Ethel guides Louis through the prayer, symbolically forgiving Roy before she departs for the hereafter.

After his confrontation with Joe, Prior begins following him obsessively, neglecting his health. He collapses from pneumonia after following Joe to the Mormon center and Hannah rushes him back to the hospital. Prior tells her about his vision and is surprised when Hannah accepts this, based on her belief in angelic revelations within Latter-day Saint theology. At the hospital, the Angel reappears, enraged that Prior has rejected her message. Prior, on Hannah's advice, wrestles the Angel, who relents and opens a ladder into Heaven. Prior climbs into Heaven and tells the council of Angels that he refuses to deliver their message, as without progress, humanity will perish, and begs them for more Life, no matter how horrible the prospect might be. He returns to his hospital bed, where he awakens from his vision with his fever broken and his health beginning to recover. He makes amends with Louis, but refuses to take him back. Meanwhile, Harper departs New York for San Francisco, leaving Joe alone.

The play concludes in 1990, five years later. Prior and Louis are still separated, but Louis, along with Belize, remain close in order to support and care for Prior, and Hannah has found new perspective on her rigid beliefs, forging a friendship with the three gay men. Prior, Louis, Belize, and Hannah gather before the angel statue in Bethesda Fountain, discussing the fall of the Soviet Union and what the future holds. Prior talks of the legend of the Pool of Bethesda, where the sick were healed. Prior delivers the play's final lines directly to the audience, blessing them and affirming his intentions to live on and telling them that "the Great Work" shall continue.


The play is written for eight actors, each of whom plays two or more roles. Kushner's doubling, as indicated in the published script, requires several of the actors to play different genders.

Main characters

  • Prior Walter – A gay man with AIDS. Throughout the play, he experiences various heavenly visions. When the play begins, he is dating Louis Ironson. His best friend is Belize.
  • Louis Ironson – Prior's boyfriend. Unable to deal with Prior's disease, he ultimately abandons him. He meets Joe Pitt and later begins a relationship with him.
  • Harper Pitt – An agoraphobic Mormon housewife with incessant Valium-induced hallucinations. After a revelation from Prior (whom she meets when his heavenly vision and her hallucination cross paths), she discovers that her husband, Joe, is gay and struggles with it, considering it a betrayal of her marriage.
  • Joe Pitt – Harper's husband and a deeply closeted gay Mormon, clerk at the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, and friend of Roy Cohn. Joe eventually abandons his wife for a relationship with Louis. Throughout the play, he struggles with his sexual identity.
  • Roy Cohn – A closeted gay lawyer, based on real life Roy Cohn. Just as in history, it is eventually revealed that he has contracted HIV and the disease has progressed to AIDS, which he insists is liver cancer to preserve his reputation.
  • Hannah Pitt – Joe's mother. She moves to New York after her son drunkenly comes out to her on the phone. She arrives to find that Joe has abandoned his wife.
  • Belize – A nurse and former drag queen, he is Prior's ex-boyfriend and best friend. He later becomes Roy Cohn's nurse.
  • The Angel/Voice – A messenger from Heaven who visits Prior and tells him he is a prophet.

Minor characters

  • Rabbi Isidor Chemelwitz – An elderly orthodox Rabbi. He performs the funeral service for Louis' grandmother in Act one of Millennium Approaches and gives him advice on his situation with Prior. Played by the actor playing Hannah.
  • Mr. Lies – One of Harper's imaginary friends. A smooth talking agent for the International Order of Travel Agents. Played by the actor playing Belize.
  • Emily – Prior's hospital nurse, a no-nonsense Italian-American. Played by the actor playing the Angel.
  • Henry – Roy Cohn's doctor, who diagnoses him with AIDS. Played by the actor playing Hannah.
  • Martin Heller – A publicity agent to the Reagan Administration's Justice Department and Roy's toady. Played by the actor playing Harper.
  • Ethel Rosenberg – The ghost of a woman executed for being a Communist spy. She haunts Roy, whom she blames for her conviction and execution, as he dies. Played by the actor playing Hannah.
  • Prior 1 and Prior 2 – The ghosts of two of Prior Walter's ancestors. Prior 1 is a gloomy Yorkshire farmer from the 13th century, Prior 2 is a cheerful 17th-century British aristocrat. They appear to Prior to herald the Angel's arrival. Played by the actors playing Joe and Roy, respectively.
  • The Man in the Park – A gay man Louis encounters while cruising for sex in Central Park. Played by the actor playing Prior.
  • Sister Ella Chapter – Hannah's realtor friend who helps her sell her house. Played by the actor playing the Angel.
  • A Homeless Woman – A crazed homeless woman Hannah encounters when she arrives in Brooklyn. Played by the actor playing the Angel.
  • The Eskimo – An imaginary friend in Harper's Antarctic hallucination. Played by the actor playing Joe.
  • Aleksii Antedilluvianovich Prelapsarianov – "The World's Oldest Living Bolshevik", whose speech in the opening of Perestroika sets up the theme of whether the world should continue to move forward. Played by the actor playing Hannah.
  • Mormon Family – A mannequin family in the Diorama Room of the Mormon Visitors' Center where Hannah and Harper volunteer. The father resembles Joe, and later becomes him in Harper's delusions. He is played by the actor playing Joe. The mother comes to life in Harper's imagination and speaks to her. She is played by the actor playing the Angel. The two sons, Caleb and Orrin, are voiced offstage by the actors playing Belize and the Angel respectively.
  • The Continental Principalities – The Angel Council Prior confronts in Heaven. They are in charge of both Heaven and Earth after God's desertion. They are the Angels Europa (played by the actor playing Joe), Africanii (played by the actor playing Harper), Oceania (played by the actor playing Belize), Asiatica (played by the actor playing Hannah), Australia (played by the actor playing Louis), and Antarctica (played by the actor playing Roy).

Production history

Front cover of the programme for the 1992 National Theatre production of part one of the play

Angels in America was commissioned by the Eureka Theatre in San Francisco, by co-artistic directors Oskar Eustis and Tony Taccone.[5] It was first performed in Los Angeles as a workshop in May 1990 by the Center Theatre Group at the Mark Taper Forum.

Millennium Approaches premiered in May 1991 in a production performed by the Eureka Theatre Company of San Francisco, directed by David Esbjornson.[6] In London it premiered in a National Theatre production at the Cottesloe Theatre, directed by Declan Donnellan.[7] Henry Goodman played Cohn, Nick Reding played Joe, Felicity Montagu played Harper, Marcus D'Amico played Louis, and Sean Chapman played Prior.[7] Opening on January 23, 1992, the London production ran for a year. In November 1992 it visited Düsseldorf as part of the first Union des Théâtres de l'Europe festival.[8]

The play's second part, Perestroika, was still being developed as Millennium Approaches was being performed. It was performed several times as staged readings by both the Eureka Theatre (during the world premiere of part one in 1991), and the Mark Taper Forum (in May 1992). It premiered in November 1992 in a production by the Mark Taper Forum, directed by Oskar Eustis and Tony Taccone. In November 1993 it received its London debut in a National Theatre production on the Cottesloe stage, in repertory with a revival of Millennium Approaches, again directed by Declan Donnellan.[8] David Schofield played Cohn, Daniel Craig played Joe, Clare Holman played Harper, Jason Isaacs played Louis, Joseph Mydell played Belize and won the Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actor, and Stephen Dillane played Prior.[8]

The entire two-part play debuted on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre in 1993, directed by George C. Wolfe, with Millennium Approaches performed on May 4 and Perestroika joining it in repertory on November 23, closing December 4, 1994. The original cast included Ron Leibman, Stephen Spinella, Kathleen Chalfant, Marcia Gay Harden, Jeffrey Wright, Ellen McLaughlin, David Marshall Grant and Joe Mantello. Among the replacements during the run were F. Murray Abraham (for Ron Leibman), Cherry Jones (for Ellen McLaughlin), Dan Futterman (for Joe Mantello), Cynthia Nixon (for Marcia Gay Harden) and Jay Goede (for David Marshall Grant). Millennium Approaches and Perestroika were awarded, in 1993 and 1994 respectively, both the Tony Awards for Best Play and Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Play.

The published script indicates that Kushner made a few revisions to Perestroika in the following year. These changes officially completed the work in 1995.[9] In 1994, the first national tour launched at the Royal George Theater in Chicago, directed by Michael Mayer, with the following cast: Peter Birkenhead as Louis Ironson, Reginald Flowers as Belize, Kate Goehring as Harper Pitt, Jonathan Hadary as Roy Cohn, Philip E. Johnson as Joe Pitt, Barbara E. Robertson as Hannah Pitt, Robert Sella as Prior, and Carolyn Swift as the Angel.[10]

The Australian premiere of Millennium Approaches was produced by Melbourne Theatre Company at Russell Street Theatre on 15 October 1993, running till 20 November 1993.[11] The Australian premier of the entire two-part play was also produced by Melbourne Theatre Company, presented at the Playhouse, Melbourne, on 30 August 1994, running through till 25 September 1994. .[12]

A Toronto production of both plays, directed by Bob Baker, opened at CanStage's Berkley Theatre in November 1996 and ran for 8 months. The cast included Steve Cumyn (Prior), Alex Poch-Goldin (Louis), Tom Wood (Roy Cohn), Patricia Hamilton (Hannah, Ethel Rosenberg and others), David Storch (Joe), Karen Hines (Harper), Cassel Miles (Belize, Mr. Lies and others) and Linda Prystawska (Angel and othes).

Kushner made relatively minor revisions to Millennium Approaches and additional, more substantial revisions to Perestroika during a run at the Signature Theatre in 2010, which were published in a 2013 complete edition. That production was directed by Michael Greif and featured Christian Borle as Prior, Zachary Quinto as Louis, Billy Porter as Belize, Bill Heck as Joe, Zoe Kazan as Harper, Robin Bartlett as Hannah, Frank Wood as Roy, and Robin Weigert as the angel.[13]

In 2013, a production of the two-part play was produced by Sydney-based theatre company, Belvoir. The cast featured Luke Mullins as Prior Walter, Mitchell Butel as Louis Ironson,[14] Marcus Graham as Roy Cohn, Ashley Zukerman as Joe Pitt, Amber McMahon as Harper Pitt, Robyn Nevin as Hannah Pitt, DeObia Oparei as Belize, and Paula Arundell as The Angel.[15] The show ran from June 1 to July 14 at the Belvoir St Theatre, before transferring to the Theatre Royal for the remainder of its run. The production finished its season on July 27.[16][17]

A second Toronto production by Soulpepper Theatre Company in 2013 and 2014 starred Damien Atkins as Prior Walter, Gregory Prest as Louis, Mike Ross as Joe, Diego Matamoros as Roy and Nancy Palk as Hannah, Ethel Rosenberg and the rabbi.[18]

Millennium Approaches made its Edinburgh Fringe Festival debut, in a production by St Andrews-based Mermaids Theatre, in August 2013 to critical acclaim.

Asia premiered the play in its entirety in 1995 by the New Voice Company in the Philippines.[19]

This was followed by another production in November 2014 at the Singapore Airlines Theatre.[20]

An Italian adaptation of the play premiered in Modena in 2007, in a production directed by Ferdinando Bruni and Elio De Capitani[21] which was awarded several national awards.[22] The same production ran for three days in Madrid in 2012.

In the fall of 2016, the Round House Theatre and Olney Theatre Center in Montgomery County, Maryland, collaborated to present a 25th anniversary production of the play, offering Parts I and II in repertory.[23] The Washington Post's theater critic called it an "epically engrossing, acidly funny masterwork."[24]

In April 2017, a new production began previews at the National Theatre, London in the Lyttleton Theatre. Directed by Marianne Elliott, the cast included Andrew Garfield as Prior Walter with Russell Tovey as Joe, Denise Gough as Harper, James McArdle as Louis Ironson, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as Belize and Nathan Lane as Roy Cohn.[25] In April 2018, the production was nominated for six Olivier Awards, winning for Best Revival and Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Play for Gough.[26] The production was filmed and broadcast to cinemas around the world as part of the National Theatre Live initiative, and later released in 2021 on the company's NT at Home streaming service.[27]

In August 2017, a new production of Millennium Approaches was brought to San Juan, Puerto Rico, by Teatro Público Inc. Directed by Benjamín Cardona, the cast featured Carlos Miranda as Roy Cohn, Jacqueline Duprey as Hannah, Gabriela Saker as Harper, and Liván Albelo as Prior. The production received critical praise and launched the new theater company.[28]

In September 2017, a revival of the two plays were staged in Melbourne at fortyfivedownstairs for nearly a four-week run. The cast included veteran actor Helen Morse as Hannah Pitt, and Margaret Mills (who had appeared in the original Australian premiere of the play in 1994) as The Angel.[29][30]

In February 2018, the 2017 Royal National Theatre production transferred to Broadway for an 18-week engagement at the Neil Simon Theatre. The majority of the London cast returned, with Lee Pace replacing Tovey as Joe, and Beth Malone playing the Angel at certain performances.[31][32] Previews began on February 23, 2018 with opening night on March 25.[33][31] The production won for Best Revival of a Play at that year's Tony Awards, with Garfield and Lane winning for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play and Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play respectively for their reprisal of their National Theatre performances, while Denise Gough and Susan Brown were nominated for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play. The production was recorded as an audiobook by Random House Audio, with Malone as the Angel and Bobby Canavale and Edie Falco narrating.[34]

A critically acclaimed production opened at Berkeley Repertory Theatre[35] in April 2018, directed by original commissioner Tony Taccone and featuring Randy Harrison as Prior, Stephen Spinella (who originated Prior Walter on Broadway) as Roy Cohn, Carmen Roman as Hannah, Benjamin T. Ismail as Louis, Danny Binstock as Joe, Bethany Jillard as Harper, Francisca Faridany and Lisa Ramirez alternating as the Angel, and Caldwell Tidicue, better known as Bob the Drag Queen, making his stage debut as Belize.

In the spring of 2023, Washington, D.C.'s Arena Stage presented Part 1, Millennium Approaches, starkly staged by Hungarian director Janos Szasz.[36] The Washington Post's critic noted "Angels in America is back in freshly provocative, exhilarating form," particularly "the collision of seven disparate figures...who interconnect over matters political, medical, romantic — and most malignantly, through the machinations of one of them, lawyer Roy Cohn, played by Edward Gero to the toxic T."[37]


Kushner prefers that the theatricality be transparent. In his notes about staging, he writes: "The plays benefit from a pared-down style of presentation, with scenery kept to an evocative and informative minimum. [...] I recommend rapid scene shifts (no blackouts!), employing the cast as well as stagehands in shifting the scene. This must be an actor-driven event. [...] The moments of magic [...] are to be fully imagined and realized, as wonderful theatrical illusions—which means it's OK if the wires show, and maybe it's good that they do..."[citation needed] Kushner is an admirer of Bertolt Brecht, who practiced a style of theatrical production whereby audiences were often reminded that they were in a theatre. The choice to have "no blackouts" allows audiences to participate in the construction of a malleable theatrical world.[citation needed]

One of the many theatrical devices in Angels is that each of the eight main actors has one or several other minor roles in the play. For example, the actor playing the nurse, Emily, also plays the Angel, Sister Ella Chapter (a real estate agent), and a homeless woman. This doubling and tripling of roles encourages the audience to consider the elasticity of, for example, gender and sexual identities.[citation needed]


Characters World Premiere London Broadway Chicago HBO Miniseries Off-Broadway Revival Second Off-Broadway Revival Australia First London Revival First Broadway Revival
1991/1992 1993 1994 2003 2010 2013 2017 2018
Prior Walter Sean Chapman Stephen Dillane Stephen Spinella Robert Sella Justin Kirk Christian Borle Michael Urie Luke Mullins Andrew Garfield
Roy Cohn Henry Goodman David Schofield Ron Leibman Jonathan Hadary Al Pacino Frank Wood Marcus Graham Nathan Lane
Louis Ironson Marcus D'Amico Jason Isaacs Joe Mantello Peter Birkenhead Ben Shenkman Zachary Quinto Adam Driver Mitchell Butel James McArdle
Harper Pitt Felicity Montagu Clare Holman Marcia Gay Harden Kate Goehring Mary-Louise Parker Zoe Kazan Keira Keeley Amber McMahon Denise Gough
Joe Pitt Nick Reding Daniel Craig David Marshall Grant Philip E. Johnson Patrick Wilson Bill Heck Ashley Zukerman Russell Tovey Lee Pace
Belize Joseph Mydell Jeffrey Wright Reginald Flowers Jeffrey Wright Billy Porter DeObia Oparei Nathan Stewart-Jarrett
The Angel Nancy Crane Ellen McLaughlin Carolyn Swift Emma Thompson Robin Weigert Sofia Jean Gomez Paula Arundell Amanda Lawrence
Hannah Pitt Rosemary Martin Susan Engel Kathleen Chalfant Barbara E. Robertson Meryl Streep Robin Bartlett Lynne McCollough Robyn Nevin Susan Brown


HBO Miniseries

In 2003, HBO Films created a miniseries adaptation of the play. Kushner adapted his original text for the screen, and Mike Nichols directed. HBO broadcast the film in various formats: three-hour segments that correspond to Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, as well as one-hour "chapters" that roughly correspond to an act or two of each of these plays. The first three chapters were initially broadcast on December 7, to international acclaim, with the final three chapters following. Angels in America was the most watched made-for-cable film in 2003 and won both the Golden Globe and Emmy for Best Miniseries.

Kushner made certain changes to his play (especially Part Two, Perestroika) for it to work on screen, but the HBO adaptation is generally a faithful representation of Kushner's original work. Kushner has been quoted as saying that he knew Nichols was the right person to direct the film when, at their first meeting, Nichols immediately said that he wanted actors to play multiple roles, as had been done in stage productions.

The main cast consists of Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Jeffrey Wright (reprising his Tony-winning Broadway role), Justin Kirk, Ben Shenkman, Patrick Wilson, and Mary-Louise Parker.


Angels in America – The Opera made its world premiere at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, France, on November 23, 2004. The opera was based on both parts of the Angels in America fantasia, however the script was re-worked and condensed to fit both parts into a two and half hour show. Composer Peter Eötvös explains: "In the opera version, I put less emphasis on the political line than Kushner...I rather focus on the passionate relationships, on the highly dramatic suspense of the wonderful text, on the permanently uncertain state of the visions." A German version of the opera followed suit in mid-2005. The opera made its US debut in June 2006 at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion in Boston, Massachusetts.


The text of Prior Walter's monologue from Act 5, Scene 5 of Perestroika was set to music by Michael Shaieb for a 2009 festival celebrating Kushner's work at the Guthrie Theater. The work was commissioned by the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus, which had commissioned Shaieb's Through A Glass, Darkly in 2008. The work premiered at the Guthrie in April 2009.[38][39]

Critical reception

Angels in America received numerous awards, including the 1993 and 1994 Tony Awards for Best Play. The play's first part, Millennium Approaches, received the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The play garnered much praise upon its release for its dialogue and exploration of social issues. "Mr. Kushner has written the most thrilling American play in years," wrote The New York Times.[40]

A decade after the play's premiere, Metro Weekly labeled it "one of the most important pieces of theater to come out of the late 20th century."[41]

By contrast, in an essay titled "Angles in America", the cultural critic Lee Siegel wrote in The New Republic, "Angels in America is a second-rate play written by a second-rate playwright who happens to be gay, and because he has written a play about being gay, and about AIDS, no one—and I mean no one—is going to call Angels in America the overwrought, coarse, posturing, formulaic mess that it is."[42] In his 1995 book Homos, literary critic and queer theorist Leo Bersani called Angels in America a "muddled and pretentious play", "[whose] enormous success [...] is a sign, if we need still another one, of how ready and anxious America is to see and hear about gays—provided we reassure America how familiar, how morally sincere, and, particularly in the case of Kushner's work, how innocuously full of significance we can be."[43]


In response to the frank treatment of homosexuality and AIDS, and brief male nudity, the play quickly became subject to controversial reaction from conservative and religious groups, sometimes labelled as being part of the "culture war".[44] In Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1996, there were protests held outside a production of the play by the Charlotte Repertory Theatre at the North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.[45][46] This led to funding cuts for the Arts & Science Council of Charlotte, the city's arts funding agency, in the following year.[47][48] A 1999 production at Kilgore College, a community college in Kilgore, Texas, sparked protests from area and national homophobic groups and led to the town's mayor and commissioners pulling funds for the Texas Shakespeare Festival, which the production's director also ran. Kushner wrote a letter of support to the cast and crew, and the production did go forward.[49][50]

Awards and nominations

Millennium Approaches

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1990 Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays[51] Non-competitive
1991 Bay Area Drama Critics Award Best Play Won
National Arts Club Joseph Kesselring Award Won
1992 Laurence Olivier Award[52] Play of the Year Nominated
Actor of the Year Marcus D'Amico Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Henry Goodman Nominated
Best Director of a Play Declan Donnellan Nominated
Evening Standard Theatre Award[53] Best Play Tony Kushner Won
Critics' Circle Theatre Award Best New Play Won
1993 Tony Awards Best Play Won
Best Actor in a Play Ron Leibman Won
Best Featured Actor in a Play Stephen Spinella Won
Joe Mantello Nominated
Best Featured Actress in a Play Kathleen Chalfant Nominated
Marcia Gay Harden Nominated
Best Direction of a Play George C. Wolfe Won
Best Scenic Design in a Play Robin Wagner Nominated
Best Lighting Design Jules Fisher Nominated
Drama Desk Award Best Play Won
Outstanding Actor in a Play Ron Leibman Won
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play Stephen Spinella Won
Joe Mantello Won
David Marshall Grant Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Kathleen Chalfant Nominated
Marcia Gay Harden Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Play George C. Wolfe Won
Outstanding Lighting Design Jules Fisher Nominated
New York Drama Critics' Circle Award Best Play Won
Pulitzer Prize for Drama[54] Won


Year Award Category Nominee Result
1992 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award Best New Play Won
1994 Tony Award Best Play Won
Best Actor in a Play Stephen Spinella Won
Best Featured Actor in a Play Jeffrey Wright Won
David Marshall Grant Nominated
Best Direction of a Play George C. Wolfe Nominated
Best Lighting Design Jules Fisher Nominated
Laurence Olivier Award[55] Play of the Year Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Joseph Mydell Won
Drama Desk Award Best Play Won
Outstanding Actor in a Play Stephen Spinella Won
Outstanding Actress in a Play Kathleen Chalfant Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play Jeffrey Wright Won
Ron Leibman Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Marcia Gay Harden Nominated
New York Drama Critics' Circle Award Best Play Runner-up

Angels in America

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1994 Outer Critics Circle Award Best Broadway Play Won
Best Director - Play George C. Wolfe Won
Best Debut Performance Jeffrey Wright Won
2017 Evening Standard Theatre Award[56] Best Actor Andrew Garfield Won
2018 Laurence Olivier Award Best Revival Won
Best Actor Andrew Garfield Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role James McArdle Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Denise Gough Won
Best Director Marianne Elliott Nominated
Best Lighting Design Paule Constable Nominated
Tony Award Best Revival of a Play Won
Best Actor in a Play Andrew Garfield Won
Best Featured Actor in a Play Nathan Lane Won
Best Featured Actress in a Play Susan Brown Nominated
Denise Gough Nominated
Best Direction of a Play Marianne Elliott Nominated
Best Original Score Adrian Sutton Nominated
Best Scenic Design of a Play Ian MacNeil and Edward Pierce Nominated
Best Costume Design of a Play Nicky Gillibrand Nominated
Best Lighting Design of a Play Paule Constable Nominated
Best Sound Design of a Play Ian Dickinson Nominated
Drama Desk Award Revival of a Play Won
Outstanding Actor in a Play Andrew Garfield Won
James McArdle Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play Nathan Lane Won
Outstanding Director of a Play Marianne Elliott Nominated
Music in a Play Adrian Sutton Nominated
Outstanding Puppet Design Finn Caldwell and Nick Barnes Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Revival of a Play (Broadway or Off-Broadway) Won
Outstanding Actor in a Play Andrew Garfield Won
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play Nathan Lane Won
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Denise Gough Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Play Marianne Elliott Nominated
Outstanding Lighting Design (Play or Musical) Paule Constable Nominated
Drama League Award Outstanding Revival of a Broadway of Off-Broadway Play Won
Distinguished Performance Award Andrew Garfield Nominated
2020 Audie Audiobook Award Best Audio Drama Won

See also


  1. ^ a b "Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches Introduction". Shmoop. Retrieved March 15, 2018.
  2. ^ "Introduction" in Geis, Deborah R.; Kruger, Steven F. (eds.) (1997). Approaching the Millennium: Essays on Angels in America. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, p. 1, citing John M. Clum, Male Homosexuality in Modern Drama, New York: Columbia University Press, 1994, p. 324.
  3. ^ "An AIDS anniversary: 25 years in the arts" Archived June 22, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. The Seattle Times, June 25, 2006.
  4. ^ Kushner, Tony (2013). "Millennium. Act I, Scene 1". Angels In America (2013, Revised and Completed ed.). New York: Theatre Communications Group. p. 9. ISBN 978-1-55936-384-6.
  5. ^ "Angels in America: The Complete Oral History". Slate. June 28, 2016.
  6. ^ "The Public Theater at Stanford Presents: Artistic Team". The Bacchae. Stanford University. 2007. Archived from the original on June 10, 2008. Retrieved June 26, 2008.
  7. ^ a b From the programme to the RNT's production of Millennium Approaches in 1992.
  8. ^ a b c From the programme to the RNT's production of Millennium Approaches and Perestroika in 1993.
  9. ^ Kushner, Tony. Angels in America: Parts 1 & 2, Nick Hern Books, London, 2007
  10. ^ Richard Christiansen (September 26, 1994). "Astounding 'Angels': First Installment Of Kushner Saga Jolts The Emotions". Chicago Tribune.
  11. ^ "AusStage : Angels in America, Part 1: Millennium Approaches". Retrieved February 26, 2024.
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  13. ^ Dziemianowicz, Joe (October 29, 2010). "Angels in America review: Zachary Quinto flies high in perfect revival of Tony Kushner play". New York Daily News. Retrieved July 20, 2014.
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  24. ^ Marks, Peter (September 13, 2016). "Summoning those better 'Angels'". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 14, 2023.
  25. ^ Shenton, Mark (October 11, 2016). "National Theatre Announces Additional Casting for Angels in America and Follies". Playbill. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
  26. ^ Lefkowitz, Andy (March 6, 2018). "Hamilton Breaks Olivier Nominations Record; Angels in America & The Ferryman Also Honored". Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  27. ^ Gordon, David (February 8, 2021). "National Theatre Begins Streaming Angels in America With Nathan Lane and Andrew Garfield". TheaterMania. Retrieved February 10, 2021.
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  31. ^ a b "Breaking News: Lee Pace Joins Angels in America on Broadway". October 19, 2017. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  32. ^ Lefkowitz, Andy (January 9, 2018). "Beth Malone & More to Join Nathan Lane & Andrew Garfield in Angels in America". Retrieved January 10, 2018.
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External links

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