Dramashop Presents Pulitzer Prize-winning Angels in America

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 at 5:00 PM

Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches begins in 1985 New York City. We’re 30 years removed from that starting point; the millennium has approached, been met, and is already passing. And yet the play remains required viewing, as we’re still grappling with the issues it explores — oppression, discrimination, acceptance, tolerance, and understanding — and dealing with the fallout of the AIDS crisis at the play’s center.

Now it’s set to make its premiere at Dramashop Friday, June 12  for a three-weekend run. The cast features a veritable who’s-who of Erie talent, and is directed by the Rev. Shawn Clerkin. Clerkin, who has taught Angels in America for 15 years in his various courses at Gannon University, called Kushner’s work “provocative, relevant, and important.” More than being relevant and important, Angels in America is also “just really good theater,” Clerkin says. “Kushner is so unafraid of the theatrical metaphor, of demanding us to suspend our disbelief and engage our imaginations.”

It is a play rich with metaphor — an angel from the great beyond interacting with earthly characters, a back-from-her-grave Ethel Rosenberg. “Such fantasy helps us understand the realities of our world,” Clerkin says.

Angels in America is also Kushner’s sharp chastising of “the reluctance to engage with the AIDS crisis,” Clerkin says, and a reminder that it’s impossible — and damaging — to limit ourselves to prescribed social categories.

“It reminds us of our individuality,” he says. “We try to put others, and ourselves, in these external, quantifiable boxes. But we’re not just gay, or straight, or Mormon, or Jewish, or rich, or poor. We’re ultimately people, with great value unto ourselves.”  — Sara Toth

8 p.m. June 12, 13, 20, 26, and 27 // 2 p.m. June 21 // Renaissance Centre, 2nd Floor, 1001 State St. // dramashop.org // Tickets $15, Students $5, Online advance $12.

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Here are three good opportunities to lighten up as the nights grow longer.

Dancing Wheels bring a world premiere to Mercyhurst.

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