Quick Synopsis: Angels in America is a two-part play that follows the stories of a gay couple, Louis Ironson and Prior Walter, and a straight couple, Joe and Harper Pitt. It literally and metaphorically tells the story, centering around homosexuality and AIDS in the 1980s.
Cast I saw:
Susan Brown -- Rabbi Isidor Chemelwitz, Henry, Hannah Pitt, Ethel Rosenberg
Nathan Lane -- Roy M. Cohn, Prior 2
Lee Pace -- Joseph Pitt, Prior 1, The Eskimo
Denise Gough -- Harper Pitt, Martin Heller
Nathan Stewart-Jarrett -- Mr. Lies, Belize
James McArdle -- Louis Ironson
Andrew Garfield -- Prior Walter, The Man in the Park
Beth Malone -- Emily, Sister Ella Chapter, A Homeless Woman, The Angel
Angels in America is hands-down my favorite play I've ever seen. It wasn't just a play; it was an experience. The show was 7 and a half hours. The first half was 3 and a half hours, and the second half was 4 hours. The play ran Wednesday through Sunday each week, with evening performances on all of the nights plus matinees on Wednesday and Saturday. Depending on your tickets' schedule, you would either see the full performance with a break for dinner in between, or you would watch the first half one day and the second half another day.
After seeing the show, I was speechless. The story was magnificent, and getting the staging, lighting, and sound perfectly precise could not have been a walk in the park. However, I was most impressed by the actors.
If you read the cast I saw above, you'll see that the actors played between 1 and 4 characters. The cast doesn't seem particularly small, until you realize that there are 20 roles divided among just 8 actors! I want to shout out Andrew Garfield (WHO I MET AFTER THE SHOW - HE IS SO SWEET!!). All I knew of him at the time was his role in the Spiderman movies. I had never seen them because I wasn't big on superheroes. I was beyond shocked when I saw him take the stage - his presence, range of abilities, and talent were only the beginning of the awe I felt when watching him.
There was one point where he came onstage as "The Man in the Park," wearing all black and trying to be extra cool, but he really just looked ridiculous. The actor opposite him (I think it was James McArdle!) couldn't keep it together. They both burst out laughing, and the audience picked up on it quickly and started laughing too. I love moments like this in theater, when actors break character for a split second and the audience feels "in on it." If you've experienced this before, I think you know exactly what I mean.
It's already hard having one part in a 7-hour show (or even a 2-hour show!), but having multiple roles? 5 days a week? The mental and physical strength someone has to have to put themselves through this is beyond strenuous. Mentally, it must be really difficult to memorize a 7 1/2 hour show and execute it onstage flawlessly. But it's also physically demanding. It must be so tiring to do a play for 3 1/2, 4, or 7 1/2 hours (depending on the schedule) every week.
I think a play with such a deep plot line forces characters into an array of different emotions, without anything really breaking up the heaviness of the topic. For example, singing in musical theater definitely makes your voice much more prone to draining faster, but at least songs can add a lightheartedness to a dark story! I guess what I'm trying to point out is that these performers couldn't hide behind anything. They had solely their acting, and it shined through across the board.