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Angels in America

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Critics' Reviews

AMG Review
Andrea LeVasseur
Billing itself as a major television event, Tony Kushner's award-winning play Angels in America is an ambitious project, to say the least. Fortunately, it's directed by theatrically trained veteran filmmaker Mike Nichols (who's enjoyed much success with stage-to-screen adaptations ever since his first film, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, in 1966). As a six-hour epic aired in two long segments, Angels marked a scheduling precedent on HBO. Such a huge project is destined to become overwhelming, and this is no exception. The high language, splashy special effects, and supernatural dream logic are surely too much for the casual cable TV viewer. However, those who appreciated the Broadway smash in 1993 will most likely be delighted by the careful construction and presentation of the source material in this version. Although it's quite a task to top the original Tony-winning Broadway actors, this cast is full of well-known names who are up to the challenge. Two of the biggest stars on the roster, Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson, seem to be having the most fun in their showy multiple roles. Thompson gets to shout flowery lines while in midair, and Streep is just a doll as the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg. As Roy Cohn, Al Pacino gets to play yet another despicable creature, while Mary-Louise Parker is as good as ever playing a long-suffering wife. Relative newcomers Justin Kirk, Patrick Wilson, and Ben Shenkman are all appropriately handsome leads involved in a love triangle, while Jeffrey Wright trumps them all by reprising his stage role of down-to-earth yet flamboyant nursemaid Belize. All of the performers are top-notch at delivering Kushner's poetic prose. Admittedly, it's difficult to view the subject matter in light of the political era in which it was written -- especially given that the state of the world has since worsened (considering the role that AIDS, conservative politics, and religious intolerance have played since the '80s). When seen as a period piece, however, Angels in America is a beautifully excessive drama that seems to have arrived at just the right time. ~ Andrea LeVasseur, Rovi
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