Angels in America, is a play written by Tony Kushner in 1993. When I was examining his work, I saw the main social issues that were occurring at that moment when the play takes place. During the late 80s and mid 90s because of the low level of public health, the spread of the disease known as AIDS in America was growing in fast numbers, especially in large urban communities, for example, New York. As well as the outbreak of AIDS, a political problem between the Democrats and Republicans for the presidential election.
That is why, in my opinion, Kushner was living in a country separated by sexual identity, political groups, religious faith, and social rank. That is why in his play he pushes all those ideals into a play about the human love. Angles in America really showcases how love can be very irregular. During this play we can see how love is shown in different places and people.
The first couple we are introduced to is Louis and Prior, who in the play, have a homosexual relationship.
Louis, becomes internally in turmoil after finding out his lover, Prior, has contracted AIDS. As if the disease that is killing him was not enough to bear, Louis abandons Prior. It was not easy for Louis to leave, he feels immensely guilty. However, he decides to leave and say that it in fact for the best. His justification for it does work at first, as the text states “Maybe that person can’t, um, incorporate sickness into his sense of how things are supposed to go.
Maybe vomit… and sores and disease… really frighten him, maybe… he isn’t so good with death” (Kushner, 25). Louis is not a person who can handle when someone is sick, he thinks that he is at fault and his presence is to blame from the sickness. I see his character as someone who thinks they do not deserved to be loved. While for Prior, he is the complete opposite. He is so in love with Louis it can bee seen more as devotion. He is clearly one of the victims in the story because he is doing everything he can and still he feels is losing love.
The next couple we are introduced to is Harper and Joseph, who have a complex heterosexual marriage, with their personal religion tied to their problems. The are both Mormons who think they are not being devoted to God. They are also very unhappy together due to the fact that Joseph is a homosexual, and due to his religion, feels that he cannot accept his true sexual preference, and remains married to Harper. He even states it himself the struggle he has to fight with, “Does it make any difference? That I might be one thing deep within, no matter how wrong or ugly that thing is, so long as I have fought, with everything I have, to kill it. What do you want from me? What do you want from me, Harper? More than that? For God’s sake, there’s nothing left, I’m a shell. There’s nothing left to kill” (Kushner, 40). Joseph has tired his hardest to be pure and be accepted in God’s eyes. He finally comes to a decision, probably for the first time thinking about what he wants and his desires to tell his mother and wife his true sexual orientation.
This decision affects Harper very strongly because she has been so unhappy in the marriage due to almost no spousal communication and intimacy, causing her to become addicted to Valium. Even though she loves him we can see her emotional state in the passage “When you come through the door at night your face is never exactly the way I remembered it. I get surprise by something…mean and hard about the way you look. Even the weight of you in the bed at night, the way you breathe in your sleep seems unfamiliar. You terrify me” (Kushner, 37). Though even though he has caused he so much heart ache, Harper loves him and wants the best for both of them, causing her to leave him.
The last character we come across is Roy Cohn, a New York lawyer who strongly says he is not homosexual in spite of the fact he feels attracted only to men. He does not want to be seen or considered gay due to the fact he views them as a lowly statue. His view is clearly stated in the text, “Homosexuals are not men who sleep with other men. Homosexuals are men who in fifteen years of trying cannot get a puissant antidiscrimination bill through City Council. Homosexuals who know nobody and who nobody knows. Who have zero clout. Does this sound like me, Henry?” (Kushner, 45). Roy does not want to be seen as a homosexual due to the fact that he has both social and political power. But that does him no good now that he has contracted AIDS himself and still has to fight his political rivals.
Angles in America is a beautifully written play about many social problems in the time it took place in. it shows how love is so authoritative and is so different in everyone’s perspective. I understood this play as it had so many texts that talked about political, religion, and social problems we face every day.