‘Angels in America’ to bridge the divide between past and present

Sabrina Spence | Staff Writer

This weekend, Washington University’s Performing Arts Department (PAD) will open “Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches.” This year marks the play’s 25th anniversary since it originally appeared on Broadway in 1993, one of the reasons the play was chosen by the department. Directed by PAD professor Henry Schvey, “Angels in America” tells the story of Prior Walter, played by first-year Louis Gordon, and his struggle as he battles both AIDS and the abandonment he feels from his partner.

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Alongside the Prior’s storyline are the stories of McCarthyist lawyer Roy Cohn and Joe Pitt, his apprentice. Cohn is later found to have rapidly progressing AIDS. The two storylines run concurrently, allowing for a play that deals with both political nuances and internalized and external homophobia wrapped in the climate of the 1980s. Described as “the finest play in the last 30-40 years by an American, it’s about gay life, acceptance, the supernatural but most of all, it’s about real people,” Schvey is enthused about the show’s upcoming run.

Cohn’s character is based in truth. Roy Cohn was an actual McCarthyist lawyer made famous by the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg trial, on which this play touches. It is especially apropos that PAD would perform this play now, because Cohn was President Donald Trump’s lawyer when in the 80s at the start of his business career, and the lawyer of Roger Stone, a former member of Trump’s presidential campaign.

When asked why Wash. U. students should see this show, Schvey responded, “part of the mission of doing theater on a university campus is to educate and inform and in part entertain and I’m hoping that the audience will be educated about AIDS and what a scourge it was in our society.”

“[‘Angels in America’] speaks directly to our political moment,” says Schvey, and is a must-see. PAD shows are free for Wash. U. students. “Angels in America” opens in Edison Theatre this Friday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m., with 7 p.m. shows Feb. 23, March 1 and March 2 and 2 p.m. shows Feb. 24 and March 3.

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