Yesterday I did a full Angels in America immersion–10 hours in Midtown for Parts 1 and 2. I scored cheapo tickets on TDF.com and into the Neil Simon Theater I smuggled water, sliced apples, nuts, whiskey, and lavender water in case my neighbors had hygiene challenges. (They didn’t, but because they were tuna sandwich smugglers, the lavender water proved useful anyway.) Outside the theater the city was cloudy and cold and Mercury Retrogradey. Which is to say: there was nowhere I’d rather have been.
Put simply, it was the best theatrical experience of my life—timeless and timely, emboldened and emboldening, transcendent and holy fractured. The staging–neon boxes and steampunk lanterns and ladders sliding up and down, side to side– was extraordinary. Ditto for the performances—Nathan Lane, raw and raging and hilarious, was the best anyone’s ever seen, and even Andrew Garfield’s look-Ma-I’m-playing-gaaaaaay conceit was not appalling once he found his rage. And get this: every straight male role was played by a middle-aged lady wearing a doggedly bad wig!
But all that pales in contrast to the powerful joy of hearing Tony Kushner’s words uttered live for the first time. I honestly believe he is this greatest country’s finest voice. Even in a too-many-cooks-in-a-kitchen mess like “Lincoln,” through his cadences course everything–salt and blood and cum, stone and silt and copper. The sweat and tears of our country and our heavens, basically. As when I saw Hamilton, I felt connected to the groundlings taking in Shakespeare while he was still alive. Connected to all of time.
Yes, Mrs. Lincoln, everything, and I do mean everything, was vibrant and devastating in equal measures. By the time I walked out, my legs barely worked anymore, so it was a good thing I could fly with the play’s 1980s Jewish Mormon homosexual lady angel wings. As I soared, the Eustacia Vye phrase I’ve whispered since I was a teenager flashed like another sign on Broadway: “Send me great love from somewhere, else I shall die.” That great love never did show up for me in the mommy-daddy, one-on-one incarnation I expected. But in New York’s museums, galleries, kitchens, caverns, sidewalks, subways, and, o fuck, stages–all those “melting pots that never melted”–I feel it all the time. I guarantee you everyone in attendance at this play feels it too: great art, great truth-yes, great, great love. It comes in such finely feathered forms.