Blogs > Liberty and Power > REQUIRED VIEWING: TONY KUSHNER ON "ANGELS," LIFE, POLITICS, LIFE, WHATSISNAME — AND MORE LIFE

Dec 27, 2003 6:43 am


REQUIRED VIEWING: TONY KUSHNER ON "ANGELS," LIFE, POLITICS, LIFE, WHATSISNAME — AND MORE LIFE



I just posted some thoughts about Tony Kushner's extraordinary play,"Angels in America," which will be shown on HBO beginning tomorrow night. And I've offered some ideas about why, even though I disagree with all of Kushner's explicit political beliefs (he's a committed socialist), I find the play to be marvelously rewarding. Here is part of what I said:

The play is set in the mid-1980s, but I doubt that you'll find it dated at all. Even though a lot of the specific subject matter is about politics and AIDS, it's about many other things as well: about the nature of religion and religious beliefs, about the myths we seem to need in order to live (including founding myths, especially), about"[t]he space between what we'd like to be and what we actually are," about desire, about the connections that occur between the most unlikely people, about fantasy and delusion (including the self-deceptions so many of us also seem to need), and even more. One of the characters in the play remarks that"History is about to crack wide open"—a statement that seems remarkably prescient, given events of the last few years.

And to grasp just how damning Kushner's portrayal of conservatism is, consider this: one of the main characters is a young Mormon Republican (Mormons, and Mormon mythology figure very prominently in the play, in a variety of fascinating ways). This young man, Joe Pitt, is about to go to work for the Reagan Justice Department, with the help of Roy Cohn. Joe is an ardent devotee of the Reagan Revolution, and says at one point:"The truth restored, law restored—that's what President Reagan's done. ... He says truth exists and can be spoken proudly."

But it turns out that Joe, whose marriage is rapidly deteriorating, is, like Cohn, a closeted gay man. So much for speaking the truth"proudly." And yet, Joe is a tremendously engaging—and sympathetic—character. All of this goes, of course, to Kushner's point about those spaces between what we hope to be and what we actually are—a dilemma that affects almost all of us to one degree or another in the course of our lives. But again, if you're just going down a checklist of what you think constitutes"good conservative writing," you will miss all of this—which means you will miss the complexity, richness and rewards that life, and superb writing, have to offer.

The entire entry can be found here.

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