“Angels in America” Flies Into Arena Stage
March 23, 2023 @ 12:00pm
Arena Stage will be playing “Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches,” a play that focuses on two couples navigating the AIDS epidemic of the mid-1980s.
“Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches” is one of the most profound plays of the last century. Winner of both a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for Best Play, Tony Kushner’s groundbreaking drama examines life in America in the mid-1980s, in the midst of the AIDS crisis and a conservative Reagan administration.
The story follows six New Yorkers whose lives interconnect as they grapple with life and death, love and sex, and heaven and hell.
Arena Stage will present the show, directed by noted Hungarian director and filmmaker János Szász, on the 30th anniversary of the play’s Broadway premiere. It runs March 24 through April 23.
Characters include two couples — Louis and Prior, and Harper and Joe — whose relationships are on the rocks; the former because of Prior’s AIDS diagnosis and Louis’ inability to cope with illness, and the latter because of Joe’s closeted homosexuality and Harper’s incessant fears and hallucinations.
There’s also the divine presence of The Angel of America, played by D.C.’s Billie Krishawn in this production.
“The audition was interesting in itself, very different and experimental, so I got a taste of what it might be like in the room,” Krishawn says. “After I found out I got the role of The Angel, I was able to talk with the director before starting the rehearsal process and I was curious to ask, ‘Why now?’ And it had to do with what I had thought of, the fact that Covid-19 had just happened, so loss was fresh in everyone’s heart. But the world has moved on a little bit and it’s easy to forget, just like we have in all the lives lost in the AIDS epidemic.”
The show’s cast also includes John Austin, Frank Britton, Edward Gero, Susan Rome, Justin Weaks, Michael Kevin Darnall, Veronica del Cerro, Brandon Haagenson, Nick Westrate and Deborah Ann Woll.
“Angels in America” is not one of those plays written a long time ago and considered a classic, but Krishawn notes almost all actors, at some time in their college career or training, have been handed a scene from the play.
“The show takes place during the AIDS epidemic and for some, it does refresh their memory of the time; yet outside of the ‘when,’ it’s a play about love and about self-discovery and about testing the limits of love. It’s in the trying times we figure out whether a love can withstand anything, and inside the play, you see a lot of love being tested.”
Krishawn’s character, The Angel, is ready for the world to show up better for each other, and that’s what she feels the show is about on a larger level.
“Those that know the show will want to see it because it’s Tony Kushner, and they are looking to see the thing that everyone has been talking about for years,” Krishawn says. “For the other audience members, they won’t realize why they needed to see this show until after they experienced it.”
Arena Stage will also host a one-night-only reading of “Angels in America, Part Two: Perestroika,” on April 17 that will be free and open to the public. But it’s not necessary for audiences to enjoy Part One.
“Part One is a story in and of itself and does a beautiful job, and I would not discourage anyone from seeing this show if they can’t attend Part Two,” Krishawn says. “This is a show that honors some things that we too often forget about and helps us connect.”
Tickets for “Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches” start at $76 and can be purchased here.
Arena Stage: 1101 6th St. SW, DC; arenastage.org // @arenastage