|Photo courtesy Theatre Coup D'etat|
|James Napoleon Stone and Megan Dowd.|
At a time of year when most theaters offer a steady diet of comedies, musicals, and lighter fair, Theatre Coup D'etat is traveling in the opposite direction by presenting the first half of one of the signature dramas of the last two decades.
In Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, Tony Kushner merged the personal, political, and religious into a dense and thrilling piece of theater. It's also far from easy to stage, but it's a task the people behind the production are more than willing to take on.
"The challenges in working with the script stem from not letting Kushner's epic speeches become to histrionic and self indulgent," says director Justin Kirkeber. "As a cast and crew, we are striving to keep the material as raw, fresh, and alive; not allowing the power of the story become the story."
Challenges are nothing new for the theater, which only formed in 2011 but has already tackled the likes of Macbeth and A Streetcar Named Desire. The company for Angels in America includes Steven Flamm, Peter Beard, Meagan Dowd, Brandon Caviness, James Napoleon Stone, Meri Golden, Michael Terrell Brown, Katherine Preble, Alec Barniskis, Marty Moreno, and Laura Ann Lewis.
Central to Kushner's play are a number of gay characters facing a variety of challenges.
"Angels in America is very relevant and powerful 20 years after the fact, with the politics of being gay becoming a national issue. Within Angels we are privy to many facets of being gay in America then and now. From one man's struggle to accept his homosexuality, another facing a long battle with HIV and his partners duty to him, and one man who uses his power to conceal his sexuality.
"All of these issues are still relevant as we see in national headlines about anti-bulling campaigns that are the result of many adolescence and young adults committing suicide for fear of their sexuality being exposed, and celebrity's sex scandals where the heart of the accusation is simply being gay," Kirkeber says.
Another key issue is HIV/AIDS, which is still vital to the gay -- and other -- communities, even though additional treatments are now available.
"Though we have many ways to extend people's lives who are HIV positive -- for the lucky ones who have access to health care -- it is important to remember there is no cure," Kirkeber says, noting that there were more than 1.3 million new infections in 2010 worldwide.
Overall, "the messages in Angels transcend beyond the moment in history that Tony Kushner captured. Like any great epic story, the details are specific but the message is universal," Kirkeber says. "Between the political climate, the play's recent absence in the cities, and our desire to do a show that challenges us as artists and as a company, the timing was simply right to do a show of such magnitude."
IF YOU GO:
Angels in America: Millennium ApproachesLowry Lab Theater
350 St. Peter St., St. Paul
Thursday through August 4In the Heart of the Beast Puppet & Mask Theater
1500 E. Lake St., Minneapolis
For information, call 612.239.7643 or visit online
350 St. Peter St., St. Paul, MN