We're going to break from tradition this week and instead of providing a panoply of openings across the country, we're going to point to one opening that has us excited. Or rather two; because Toronto's Soulpepper is being insanely and thrillingly ambitious by presenting the two parts of Tony Kushner's Angels in America in rotation through the summer.
When Angels first hit the boards as a workshop in 1990, the buzz started almost immediately. The moment the published version hit the stands it was widely circulated among theatre people and before long virtually everyone who cared about the art form wanted to see it, do it, or be in it. It was hailed as the best American play since Death of a Salesman. This was particularly odd because it was actually two plays - Millenium Approaches and Perestroika - and together they ran over six hours.
Nevertheless, within two years of its first professional production, it was being performed - in whole or in part - around the world and by 1993 hit Broadway. The same year it won the Pulitzer Prize. Casts have featured Daniel Craig (London), Ron Leibman (NYC), Marcia Gay Harden, Cynthia Nixon and Cherry Jones among many others. This year, a full staging from St. Andrews University will roll into the Edinburgh Festival.
Angels is not an AIDS play - or it is not just that. It is an epic assessment of humans caught in webs of deceit, politics and morality even as they try to remain human. It is magnificently theatrical and can be done as a Hollywood-style mega-production or on a shoestring. It requires actors of the first order, an unflinching director and a brave company. Soulpepper is certainly up to the task.