An angelic redux

The angel has finally arrived…again.? This Wednesday, the Babcock Theatre opens the second part of Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning “Angels in America: Perestroika,” under the direction of Larry West. ?

Dubbed as “a gay fantasia on national themes,” Kushner’s two-part play focuses on the lives and relationships of seven people trying to find their role in the world amid AIDS, politics and sexual identity issues during the Reagan years in New York City.?

In the first part, titled “Millennium Approaches” (which was staged last year by the Babcock), we are introduced to Prior Walter, who has AIDS, and his lover Louis. Louis, for reasons of his own, leaves the relationship and finds Joe Harper, an LDS state Supreme Court clerk who happens to be a closet homosexual. His wife, Harper, plays witness to his sexual frustration, becoming further distraught in her Valium induced paranoia as he distances himself from her over the course of the play.

Joe works for the infamous Roy Cohn, a lawyer on the verge of being disbarred. He has also been diagnosed with HIV, and considers himself “a straight man that fools around with guys.” Perestroika (Russian for restructuring) is most famously connected with Mikhail Gorbachev’s efforts at reform of the doomed USSR in the late ’80s.

In a similar fashion, the second part of Angels in America is where the faith and lives of each of its characters undergo their own Perestroika. Joe and Louis have been living together, Hannah Pitt (Joe’s mother) has moved to New York to look after Harper (who was last seen hallucinating Antarctica), Roy is bed-ridden in the hospital and Prior has just had his roof smashed in by an Angel that calls him a Prophet (sound familiar?). ? Perestroika provides you with no re-cap of the previous part, so be advised that if you haven’t seen the first half you won’t entirely understand each character.

The action picks up where it left off, jumping from the hospital and a Mormon visitor’s center, from heaven to hell, it traverses that thin line between reality and dreams, living and dying and between love and hate.?

The power of Angels lies in the language and lives of Kushner’s characters, the success of which stems from its audiences, who relate to the characters on some level and find themselves caring for them and their journeys.?

The cast for this year’s production is completely new, with the exception of Jonah Taylor who returns this year to play the sassy nurse Belize. Otherwise, it’s the same set and lights, with a new costume design and of course, some new surprises. ?

That said, it is not surprising that the show will have two 10-minute intermissions, as it boasts a running time of nearly three-and-a-half hours. The compelling nature of the story and Prior’s literal climb to heaven should engage even the most attention deficit of play-goers.