Angels in America: Millennium Approaches

Rated 4.0

Tony Kushner’s Angels in America premiered in San Francisco in 1991. It’s now viewed as one of our era’s great plays: a big tapestry weaving in sexuality (mostly gay), love, betrayal, fatal illness, politics, history and religion.

And we mean “big,” with more than 15 characters in scenes realistic and fantastic, humorous and tragic.

The play’s been mounted just once before in Sacramento (an outstanding effort in ’98 by Beyond the Proscenium Productions). Our professional companies have avoided it (too costly, too gay, yadda).

But Lambda Players is a community theater group with a gay mission: a company we value highly, possessing modest resources. After long consideration, Lambda has done a brave (and risky) thing and staged this big enchilada.

Good news is: they’ve done a worthy job.

Primarily, Lambda’s production succeeds because you identify with the characters—all over the spectrum (sexually, politically)—and for all its visionary sweep, Angels in America is ultimately about recognizable people, including:

—A left-wing gay Jew (well-played by Evan Johnson), feeling guilt as he abandons his AIDS-stricken lover.

—A rising Reagan Republican (and married Mormon) struggling to conceal his deep attraction to men (a tense portrait by actor Eric Baldwin).

—A black drag queen working as a nurse (Eddie Jackson).

—The ghost of Ethel Rosenberg, a New Yorker electrocuted in 1953 on Cold War spy charges—one of three roles (two male!) handled skillfully by Martha Omiyo Kight, who’s having a heck of a year as an actress.

The other actors (Jes Gonzales, Maggie Hollinbeck, Kevin Caravalho, Kira Taylor) fare well. Brian Rivera (heretofore an actor) shows a sure, steady hand in his first big directing assignment.

This is a small-scale production, not perfect. But the show flys by faster than the 3.5-hour runtime.

And the script has taken resonance: Think of the arrest of Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) after an incident in an airport men’s room. Kushner’s script has legs. People will be absorbed by Angels for decades, maybe centuries.

Catch it while you can.