Tony Kushner

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Tony Kushner: “Angels In America” Essay, Research Paper Explore how any playwright of the time has successfully dramatised a social issue. Contemporary theatre has stepped further and further away from the sugar-coated happy society plays and musicals that once dominated Broadway and the West End. Now, harsher more realistic stories with issues facing today?s society and politics are shocking that conventional-type of theatre. ?Shock is a part of art. Art that?s polite is not much fun? (Kushner:Bernstein). One of these stories that have made this kind of impact on modern drama and theatre is Tony Kushner?s ?Angels in America.? Described as ?the best American play in forty years,? this two part play (?Millennium Approaches? and ?Perestroika?) gives to life a variety of

different issues facing not just the American society it is set in but the modern world as well (Lucas). With the main story line dealing with gays, politics, and AIDS in the 1980s, with this ?A Gay Fantasia on National Themes? Kushner has successfully explored these issues in further detail ultimately ?nudging Broadway into the 21st century? (Winship). The gay revolution took place in America in the 1980s which, consequently, is the setting for ?Angels in America?. The strong economy gave many of ?Reagan?s children? power and courage to be more open with their sexuality (Part One: Act II, scene vii). People were ?coming out?, so to speak, more than in previous decades. With five out of eight of the main characters in the play being gay males, and half of those in high power

positions (i.e. law), the setting and political information discussed support the truth that Kushner writes about the gay community. ?Good politics will produce good aesthetics, really good politics will produce really good aesthetics, and really good aesthetics, if somebody?s really asking the hard questions and answering them honestly, they?ll probably produce truth? (Kushner:Bernstein). There is truth at the most basic of levels when, Joe, chief clerk for a Federal Court of Appeals judge, admits that he is homosexual (Part One: Act II, scene viii). Also truth to the most extreme, a consequence leading to death for many homosexuals: HIV and the AIDS virus, involving Roy the successful lawyer/power broker (Part Two: Act IV, scene viiii). ?Angels in America? is not just a ?gay

play?, but a play about American politics as well. The appearance of politics, not to mention homosexuality and AIDS, are issues resisted by most critics and audiences. Despite the odds, the subjects have proved successful to Kushner. The political element in this play is one that is a key in the story line and something not seen in many plays before this time. ?Is it that Americans don?t like politics, or is it that so much theatre that is political isn?t well done?? (Kushner:Bernstein) It is mentioned in detail and is even non-fictional, as mentioned in Kushner?s disclaimer for ?Perestroika?. This type of detail given at an aesthetic approach essentially gives the audience a life-like story and the characters that life to portray. The change the Reagan era caused in politics

and the country is expressed by these characters as a part of that society. For example, Joe, representing the optimistic opinion, discusses with Harper the positive change that the Reagan administration has given to the country: ?…For the good. Change for the good. America has rediscovered itself. Its sacred position among nations. And people aren?t ashamed of that like they used to be…The truth restored. Law restored. That?s what President Reagan?s done….We become better. More good…? (Part One: Act One, scene v). As Belize, representing the more pessimistic opinion, discusses to Louis of his hate of America under Reagan: ?Well I hate America, Louis. I hate this country. It?s just big ideas, and stories, and people dying, and people like you…I live in America, Louis,