On the Bookshelf: Angels in America, Parts I and II

Article Written by : Hollywood Heat
Playwright Tony Kushner, author of Angels in America,  said of the differences between playwriting and its (in Kusher’s view) once-removed cousin, screenwriting: “Screenwriting is primarily a narrative art–and I don’t think that’s true of playwriting, which is dialogic and dialectic, and is fundamentally always more about an argument than it is about narrative progression. I suspect, in fact, that novel writing and screenwriting have more in common than playwriting has with either of the other forms.”

Yet for emphasizing rhetoric, Kushner in Angels in America does a fantastic job of breathing life into the basis of narrative, characterization, while furthering his ideas about race, sexuality, religion, and politics into a cohesive statement about the state of America at the end of the Regan era. Kushner was warned that the time and place-specific references in Angels would quickly date the play, which may be apparent in another 20 years, but thus far, they seem to only lend the play a sense of gravitas and flesh out the dramatic tension scoring Kushner’s rhetoric. And his technique of pairing two scenes as one and intercutting dialogue work well as a dramatic device to highlight the dualities and contractions present in the characters and conflicts.

The HBO miniseries of the play topped six hours, I think, but reading Angels in its original form won’t take you nearly that long. In fact, the play moves at a very good clip, and Kushner’s writing maintains its ebullience and incisiveness over the 200+ pages. If you want to read a “big” play that was written in the past 50 years, start here.

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