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Angels in America's spirit of resistance

Review by Alan Maass | December 5, 2003 | Page 9

Angels in America, directed by Mike Nichols, written by Tony Kushner based on his play, starring Justin Kirk, Patrick Wilson, Al Pacino and Mary-Louise Parker. Showing on HBO starting December 7.

IF ANGELS in America gets the audience it deserves when it debuts on HBO this weekend, some right-wing buffoons may be wishing they hadn't hounded CBS's The Reagans off the air.

Conservatives went on a rampage about The Reagans mini-series because it wasn't respectful enough about their hero. But Angels in America has nothing but contempt for Ronald Reagan and the miserable years of right-wing fanaticism that he presided over as president in the 1980s.

Tony Kushner's magnificent two-part, seven-hour play was first performed on stage more than a decade ago. Now it has been turned into a movie--to be broadcast in two parts on HBO, with the original script almost intact, and some of the best actors around performing in it.

At the heart of the story is the very issue that the right went crazy about with The Reagans--the AIDS epidemic. Angels in America is explicit about how Reagan's anti-gay bigotry and silence about the disease is directly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands.

Angels in America is also about many other things, political and not--the Republicans' manipulation of the federal courts, religion and why people maintain their faiths, the meaning of loyalty and responsibility to those closest to us in a world of tragedy and screwed-up priorities.

It will do your soul good to hear Kushner's characters heap abuse and mockery on Reagan and his gang of narrow-minded bigots. But the story is also driven by a spirit of resistance, as its chief character, Prior, who suffers from AIDS, travels to the heavens to plead for "more life"--for himself, but also for a society that is being ruined by greed and hatred.

His final words--"The Great Work Begins"--is a call to action against everything that Ronald Reagan represents. It's a message that bears repeating today.

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