Beginning this Friday, the intrepid actors of CenterStage Productions at the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck are taking on one of the biggest challenges in contemporary theater: a full production – including both parts, which are sometimes mounted separately – of Tony Kushner’s epic Angels in America. Subtitled A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, it’s a complex, powerful, multilayered exploration of identity, sexuality, religion, politics and commitment set within the framework of the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. The sometimes-allegorical plot also involves Mormonism, McCarthyism, drug-fueled hallucinations, heavenly interventions and a visit to Antarctica.
Premiering its first part, Millennium Approaches, in Los Angeles in 1991 and in its completed form on Broadway in 1993, Angels won both the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Best Play, along with near-universal critical acclaim. Productions have subsequently been performed all over the world – occasionally generating local furors about funding of artworks on controversial topics – and the play has inspired an opera, as well as an Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning HBO TV miniseries.
At the Center, Marcus D. Gregio directs a cast that includes Kevin Archambault, Emily DePew, Joe Felece, Alex Heinen, Victoria Howland, Alan Lipper, Cezar Remon, Bill Ross, Alex Taylor and Lou Trapani. Performances of Angels in America begin at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, March 4, 5, 11 and 12 and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 6 and 13. Tickets cost $24 and $22 and can be ordered by calling (845) 876-3080 or visiting www.centerforperformingarts.org. Be advised that this program is specifically designed to be viewed by adults, and therefore may be unsuitable for children under 17. The Center for Performing Arts is located at 661 Route 308, about 3 ½ miles east of downtown Rhinebeck.