Friday, February 27, 2009

Angels in America at Pitt

This weekend marks the last two performances of Angels in America Part 1: Millennium Approaches. University of Pittsburgh Repertory Theater, directed by Holly Thuma, made the commitment to Angels. They've assembled a wholly original staging.

Ted Hoover's review in the City Paper covers the historic nature & inherent difficulties of staging Angels. All the necessary Kushner details. I'm more interested in this particular staging, how its compact format and strategic transitions allowed the group to create a series of striking images for the audience.

The stage inside Stephen Foster Memorial Theatre (Forbes Avenue at Bigelow) is pretty damn small. If this were an apartment, it would be "charming" or "cozy". Monochromatic beige stone masonry in three layers, shallow levels that create zones for small set-pieces. The walls flip to become urinals. Stagehands bring out simple beds, couches, chairs, easily flipping the audiences attention from one stage 'zone' to another. Simple misdirection allows characters to appear magically.

Lighting, from strong color 'looks' to image projections over the entirety of the stage allow the set and the actors upon it to become the screen upon which we the audience projected the play. Moments like Ethyl Rosenberg's appearance, the dance of the diseased Prior and his fleeing lover in a tux, the shifting snows of the antarctic, all created indelible images that could become painting.

All in one intimate space. Of course the angel makes her appearance, in the way we are expecting her to. But the series of spells cast by the environments, the capable acting, draw one in. I was surprised to burst into tears when she fell from the cieling in her harness.

This group has overcome the difficulty of audience familiarity which poses a particular challenge in Millennium. Still, take advantage of the last two nights. That way you'll be prepared for Perestroika when they stage it this spring.

city paper review

university of pittsburgh information

for tickets call 412-624-PLAY

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