The revival of the play(s) Angels in America at Berkeley Rep has been long in the works by director Tony Taccone. He commissioned it back when he was artistic director at the Eureka Theatre, before it grew into what it would become: a sprawling, award winning (Tony, Drama Desk and Pulitzer) drama of love, loss, and the crisis of AIDS in the Reagan era.
There’s more information about the show, which can be seen in ‘marathon’ back to back performances (mostly on weekends) at the Berkeley Rep website.
The full title is Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, and it’s divided into two halves, Millennium Approaches, and Perestroika. The running time of both is more than seven hours, but Taccone says that wasn’t Kushner’s original intent: “He said he had an idea for a very small play. With a couple of Mormons and Roy Cohn as characters, and we were like, ‘OK.’ He said, it’s going to be a chamber play, like 90 minutes. So… To say that I had some idea about the sprawling size of it would be a complete lie. I had no idea.” Roy Cohn, the closeted New York lawyer whose fame arose from his serving in the McCarthy anti-Communism hearings, is one of two characters with AIDS, the other is Prior, whose boyfriend leaves him when he learns of the diagnosis. (Stephen Spinella, who plays Cohn in this production, won two Tony awards for playing Prior in the original run in New York City.) Taccone says rather than feeling like a historical snapshot, it’s just as relevant today. “Some of the issues, obviously, were of the moment. I mean, the level of trauma around AIDS, especially in this town, was extraordinarily high, and so we were in the middle of that. But certainly the political fantasy wish-fulfilment paradigm world view of Roy Cohn, we are now living in, in a way that honestly nobody could have predicted except for Tony Kushner.”