“Perestroika” Proves As Powerful As Part I Of “Angels In America” As Stray Dog Completes The Saga

Sarajane Alverson as the Angel, visits Ben Watts as Prior during "Angels In America" at Stray Dog Theatre. Photo credit: John Lamb

Part I of “Angels In America” is produced more often than Part II and, although the second half could stand alone, it’s much more powerful to have the background of “Millennium Approaches” under your belt. Together they are one hell of a ride and Stray Dog Theatre has given us a ride we won’t soon forget. This is an accomplishment that truly vaults them into another level of theatre in our town.

We visit our old friends during “Perestroika” and, although the political overtones are there, the prevalent story line continues to be love, or the lack thereof, and hope as apocalyptic events appear to take over the world. Is it the return of the plague? How can it be stopped? With words like “AIDS” and “HIV” seeping into our vocabulary, it was a frightening time as people seemed to be dying for no apparent reason.

Prior and Harper continue to have their own special connection referred to as “the threshold of revelation,” but Prior resists being the modern day prophet even though he throws out the line, “I’m a prophet, for God’s sake,” whenever it’s to his advantage. Harper continues to struggle with her drug addiction and flights of fancy while trying to come to grips with the changes in her husband, Joe. He continues to hook up with Prior’s ex, Louis while Roy Cohn takes them both under his wing as his fate comes looming with the inevitability of Prior’s “Angel.”

Ben Watts simply amazes again as the angst-ridden Prior. He and Roy share most of the laughs of Part II though they are of a darker nature. David Wassilak takes on Roy’s persona like he was born to play the part. It’s an astounding performance that culminates in one last trick on his nemesis, Ethel Rosenberg, before his demise. Sarajane Alverson dazzles with her transformation from the “messenger” to the avenging angel who tries to mesmerize Prior.

Rachel Hanks and Stephen Peirick during one of their infrequent tender moments as Harper and Joe in Stray Dog's "Angels In America." Photo credit: John Lamb.

Rachel Hanks is particularly moving in Part II as she moves from her dreams to reality with painstaking results. Stephen Peirick continues his wonderful work as her husband who is struggling with his sexuality as much as he is with his job. Aaron Paul Gotzon delivers another great performance as the troubled Louis and Greg Fenner and Laura Kyro both do yeoman work in multiple roles.

This cast is simply one of the best. As I was discussing the power of the play and cast at the first intermission with a fellow reviewer, we were both amazed that, not only did this cast memorize seven hours of dialogue, they also maintained both their characters and an energy that never faltered though a gut-wrenching set of performances. Kudos to the cast, director Gary F. Bell and a tech and running crew that made this miracle happen.

I’m telling you, folks, if you love quality theatre and want to be knocked out of your seat, don’t miss both parts of “Angels In America.” It’s a considerable commitment as you will spend three and a half hours on Part I and four hours on Part II (both parts have an early starting time of 7:30PM), but it’s worth every minute and you probably will not get the chance to experience both halves of this outstanding play again.

“Angels In America” plays on consecutive week-ends through May 19th at Stray Dog Theatre. Contact them at http://www.straydogtheatre.org for tickets or more information.


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