Angels in America is such a 180 from the plays we read last week. I vaguely remember when the miniseries came out on HBO ten years ago, but I knew nothing of the play itself. Given some of the language and explicit sex scenes, I'm actually kind of surprised that Father selected this play for one of our readings. But, I am very glad he did select it. If he had simply selected the "cookie-cutter" forms of religious-themed plays, we would have never been able to see the true evolution of these sorts of works. We definitely would not be able to fully appreciate religious-themed works without readings like Angels in America.
The two major themes of homosexuality and Joe and Harper's Mormonism are really what made this play interesting to me. With the play being set in 1985, the discovery of AIDS was just coming to light. I honestly don't know the science behind their reasoning but, as we learn in play, doctors said that homosexuals were among the most highly affected of AIDS. Obviously I was not alive in the 80s, but it seemed that because of that, people were afraid of gay people. It's like they were dirty. Which is alluded to when, in one of Prior's dreams, one of the old Prior refers to the most current Prior as a "Sodomite" upon learning that he is gay. So how fascinating is it that Prior, a gay man, is chosen to be a prophet? And even more interesting is the fact that AIDS is referred to by some in this play as "the plague."
It's really an interesting concept. A man who is an outcast from society is chosen to be the leader of an even larger group of outcasts? Maybe Prior is intended to be a prophet to gay people, cast aside because of AIDS. Or, maybe he's intended to be a prophet to all of America, which may be alluded to in the title of the play and the fact that many of the characters talk about how dysfunctional America is in that day in age. And the fact that Prior rejects the idea of being a prophet at first is a very cool parallel to biblical stories.
Another interesting aspect of this play is the fact that Joe is a Mormon. He is a devout Mormon and believes very much in the religion. However, he struggles with the realization that he is gay, since it totally goes against what his religion teaches. To me, it seems that the playwright is challenging a huge aspect of organized religion. I mean there are so many obvious great aspects about believing in a religion. But how should you feel when that religion, one you have grown up believing in, tells you that you will be punished and possibly go to hell for being your true self. This must be what Joe felt as he realized that he was gay. I mean, as Harper said, their church doesn't *believe* in homosexuals.
I'm not going to lie, I did not really get all of this by just reading the play. I found just reading the play to be a little hard to follow. With many split scenes, hallucinations/dreams and long monologues, I found myself getting confused. However, I decided to watch the miniseries side-by-side with reading the play, and I found that to be a great help. I definitely recommend watching the miniseries to anyone else who felt lost reading the play. It was a great cast and really helped to bring some of the weirder scenes to life.