"Go see it. It’s just that good." Pic by Robert Catto
Apocalypse Theatre Company, director Dino Dimitriadis, and the entire cast and crew have made a rare piece of theatre with their new production of Angels In America. Go see it. It’s just that good.
Perestrokia begins as the Angel (Maggie Dence) gives Prior Walter (Ben Gerrard), a gay man dying from AIDS, a prophecy: stop moving, cease. God, she says, has departed Heaven, and the angels think that humanity’s cessation might invite his return. It is the only stone left unturned.
Prior’s ex-lover, Louis (Timothy Wardell), is sleeping with a gay Republican Mormon lawyer, Joe Pitt (Gus Murray). Pitt’s wife, Harper Pitt (Catherine Davies) chews down a pine tree. Roy Cohn (Ashley Lyons) holds fast to his hyper-capitalist, super heteronormative schtick while Belize (Joseph Althouse), a queer black nurse, reluctantly cares for the dying man. Hannah Pitt (Deborah Sintras) Joe’s Mormon mother, has sold her house and moves to New York, where she befriends Prior, the queen, the prophet, the damned.
What power, Kushner asks, can stop this?
Asking the world to stop spinning is a more surmountable task.
Perestroika fantastically executes all that which part one, Millennium Approaches, sets. Harper asks a Mormon diorama how people can change. The mother in the diorama responds that God reaches inside your guts, yanks them out in pain, then stuffs them back "dirty, tangled and torn. It’s up to you to do the stitching."
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Ben Gerrard is nothing less than a vision for every one of the four hours of this show. His pain and fabulous queerness demonstrate a subtle strength of characterisation of a person prone to succumb to the superficial. Joseph Althouse, too, finds nuance in the highly performative. Maggie Dence’s Angel is terrific and terrifying, her growl otherworldly.
But for today's show, the greatest accolades must go to Deborah Sintras, playing Hannah Pitt. The Saturday show had been cancelled due to actor Jude Gibson (who was so fantastic in Millennium Approaches) being ill, but the show must go on. Sintras was given the script on the morning of the show, and performed with book-in-hand for a four-hour epic. She brought such strength, patience and commitment to the role. The strength of the show, of the cast and crew, and the strength of theatre were exemplified by this precious piece of theatrical emergency and recovery.
It’s this same yearning and desire for progress, the inability to cease moving, that is the boiling lifeblood that drives Perestroika. It drives the Angels to ask the unaskable of mankind. It drives each character to the ends of their desire. It drives Apocalypse Theatre Company to do the undoable under great stress (and do it with chutzpah). And it drives Prior to reject the prophecy and confront heaven with his unshakeable humanity. "More life," he pleads. "More life," he demands. "More life."