Angels in America: America’s Queer Phenomenon in Theater

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Critical portrayal of society serves to enhance the audience’s awareness of the weakness of the current social order at the time in order to draw their attention to the necessity of change. Ultimately, Kushner wants us to participate in the challenging creation of a more social and caring world where outsiders become insiders. Perestroika, is more forgiving and exhibits the characters’ struggle back to normalcy, as the characters attempt to accept “the old” to be able to proceed with “the new”, and to exclude “othemess”. The portrayal of diversity appeals to the audience’s understanding of the American idea of freedom and equality, and points out that “otherness” is no longer accepted in American society.

“Angels in America” has become a queer phenomenon in American theatre and society—a play of gay men marking “a turning point in the history of American drama, and of American literary culture”, radical in politics but popular in acceptance. It becomes a “queer” in American theater, while “queerness” becomes the key to parse this phenomenon. From above analysis, we can find queerness not only provides the concrete founding for its politics but also demonstrates the aesthetics of the theatre of the fabulous and the philosophy of change. Therefore, the play represents the culmination of Kushner’s theatre of the fabulous—a blending of radical politics, high aesthetic tension achieved through the tension between illusion and reality defined by a “gay fantasia”, a philosophy of historical progress from calamity and a belief of building love and forgiveness in this “painful progress”.

“Angels in America” speaks so powerfully not only because of its politics, stage devices, and the brilliant use of language, but also because of the presentation of something far larger and more urgent. It really is history that Kushner intends to crack open. He sends his haunting prophet, an abandoned AIDS patient with a heroic spirit and a ravaged body, deep into his audience’s heart to ask how the nation faces history and what to do, as the plague continues and the millennium approaches. The guiding metaphor for this ambitious, sweeping epic is Walter Benjamin’s image of the Angel of History. As Kushner has explained, his inspiration for the angel in his play comes from Walter Benjamin’s reading of a Paul Klee painting entitled Angelus Novus. Benjamin’s conception of the ruins of history as the price of the progress is the string that holds together the many themes the plays examine. This is the “painful progress” of “longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead”, one of the characters concludes at the end.

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