I am a Tony Kushner groupie. As it was for so many people, seeing the Broadway production of Angels in America as a teenager in the early '90s was a shattering experience. It confirmed my suspicions that theater could be both rooted in the real and explode convention, flesh and fantasy entwined.
Still, not every Kushner play so deftly balances the interplay between the playwright's famed logorrhea and the demands of a live theatrical work. So I had grand hopes and slight jitters about Kushner's newest work, The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, or as it is called by many iHo.
Cue exhale: The co-venture between the Public Theater and the Signature Theatre Company is stunning. Here, a guide to the hows and whys:
All in the Family Taking a cue from the thorny living-room dramas of Tennessee Williams, Eugene O'Neill, and Arthur Miller, the action of iHo transpires at the Marcantonio brownstone in Brooklyn in 2007. The patriarch, Gus, brings his three children together to announce that he intends to kill himself. In the wake of the announcement, the family's secrets are unearthed and old wounds are scraped wide open.
A Little of This; More of That Kushner being Kushher, iHo interweaves the personal and the political as the Marcantonio brood debates the power of the union, societal responsibility and personal freedom. The unfolding is breathtaking to watch and hear.
All Together Now To me, the centerpiece of the play is a shockingly extended scene around iHo's midpoint, during which most of the characters speak concurrently during a verbal welter that is overwhelming, agonizing and one of the most blissful theatrical moments I have recently encountered.
In the Spotlight Every good play hinges on the talents of its actors. iHo is blessed with some of the finest Kushner interpreters currently working. Two longtime veterans of his distinctive language are Linda Emond and Stephen Spinella, who originated the role of Prior Walter in Angels in America. Kushner's words flow from their lips like nighttime breath. And Michael Cristofer, who plays Gus Marcantanio, gives a performance for the ages.
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