Places: Angels in America

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Part 1, Millennium Approaches, 1992; part 2, Perestroika, 1994

First produced: Part 1, Millennium Approaches, 1991; part 2, Perestroika, 1992

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Political

Time of work: Mid-1985 to 1990

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*New York City

*New Angels in AmericaYork City. This play uses many real locations in and around New York City, such as the East Village, the Lower East Side, the South Bronx, and Brooklyn Heights. However, the most important of these exterior settings is Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, a large fountain with a statue called the Bethesda Angel. It is a place around which New Yorkers like to relax, talk, and play music. This final setting of the play suggests that spiritual forces have aligned themselves to produce a new lease on life for him.

The other important New York venue is one that is interior, namely the hospital or sickrooms of two men suffering from AIDS. One room is that of Prior Walter, the other is Roy Cohn’s. Both rooms are often transformed, however, into spaces for hallucinations and visions, especially the appearance of an august, opalescent, winged angel who crashes into Prior’s room to declare him a prophet and charge him with a great mission.

Other worlds

Other worlds. These include an imaginary Antarctica, supernatural levels of reality, and various versions of the Afterworld, ranging from a bleak hell to a gathering place for worried angels heavily invested in the outcome of life on earth.

*Salt Lake City

*Salt Lake City. Capital of Utah and headquarters of the Mormon church, this venue and the characters in the play who come from there suggest a mainstream midwestern conservative perspective.

Suggested ReadingsBrustein, Robert. “On Theater: Angels in America.” The New Republic, May 24, 1993, 29. One of America’s finest theater critics provides an excellent overview of the play.Clum, John. Acting Gay: Male Homosexuality in Modern Drama. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.Felman, Jyl Lynn. “Lost Jewish (Male) Souls: A Midrash on Angels in America.” Tikkun 10, no. 3 (May, 1995): 27-30.Kushner, Tony. “Playwright of Pain and Hope.” Interview by Bob Blanchard. Progressive 58, no. 10 (October, 1994). Tony Kushner talks about Angels in America.Olson, Walter. “Winged Defeat.” The National Review, January 24, 1994, 71-73. A revealing discussion of how Tony Kushner tries to combine Marxism, mysticism, and transgression in his work.Posnock, R. “Roy Cohn in America.” Raritan 13, no. 3 (Winter, 1994): 64-77. A study of how Tony Kushner uses the real history of Roy Cohn.Savran, David. “Ambivalence, Utopia, and a Queer Sort of Materialism: How Angels in America Reconstructs the Nation.” Theater Journal 47 (1995): 207-227.Tucker, Scott. “A Storm Blowing from Paradise.” The Humanist 53, no. 6 (November/December, 1993): 32-35. A provocative examination of Tony Kushner as gay militant and as a writer whose vision includes the mainstream.
Categories: Places