A modern American classic at Sierra Cinemas | TheUnion.com

A modern American classic at Sierra Cinemas

John Deaderick and Sandra Rockman
Submitted to Prospector
Andrew Garfield (Silence, Hacksaw Ridge, The Amazing Spiderman) plays Prior Walter in “Angels in America,” which will be broadcasted live at Sierra Cinemas in Grass Valley.
Photo by Helen Maybanks |

Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Angels in America” is a marathon — both for the audience and, especially, for the splendid cast. Eight hours over two showings might seem excessive, however, the evenings flew by in gripping and spectacular fashion.

Although we are known as “theatre-people” and can sit still longer than most, we feel strongly that the humanity, humor and pathos of this National Theatre London Live production will appeal to anyone seeking unforgettable entertainment.

Marianne Elliott’s (War Horse and Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime) revival is taut, wildly imaginative and executed with flawless elegance. Multiple story lines ultimately converge in unexpected ways.

The set by Ian MacNeil is a triumph of moving parts — allowing swift fluidity of scene changes. Though spare, the visual aspect and palette maintain our emotional connection to this compelling story.

Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of a 30-year old gay man confronting his mortality at the beginning of the AIDS crisis in Reagan’s America is unnervingly moving.

Far from his Spiderman persona, Garfield is amazing — athletic, emotionally available, versatile and endearing. Abandoned by his lover, Louis, in a captivating performance by James McArdle, Prior’s loneliness and failing health is the spine of the play. His former lover, Belize (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), a professional nurse, provides comfort, compassion and sorely-needed doses of reality.

Characters include a closeted gay Mormon lawyer, Joe Pitt (Russell Tovey), his bitterly anguished wife, Harper (Denise Gough), Joe McCarthy’s sidekick, Roy Cohn, played by Nathan Lane in an astounding exhibition of his range as an actor.

The appearance of the Angel (Amanda Lawrence) at the end of Part 1 thrusts us into magical realism. Hallucinatory sequences add counterpoint to the life-and-death realities the characters are confronting.

With the exception of Prior, all the actors play multiple roles in feats of skill and emotionality that require enviable stamina. Excepting Lane and Garfield, the remaining British and Irish National Theatre actors have convincingly mastered American dialects and performance styles.

Set between 1985 and 1990, this play is of its time and yet has uncomfortable resonances for today’s political shift to the right. Conservative policies regarding healthcare, LGBTQ rights, and basic human dignity have forced us to confront a return to those regressive politics that provided the impetus for Kushner to write Angels in America.

This is a rare opportunity to see a classic of modern American theatre in a breathtaking and powerfully moving production. London seats are sold-out for the remainder of the run there but plenty of seats will be available here for the encore matinees at our own Sierra Cinemas.

Don’t miss it.

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