Academic journal article Notes on Contemporary Literature

Interconnectedness in Kushner's Angels in America

Academic journal article Notes on Contemporary Literature

Interconnectedness in Kushner's Angels in America

Article excerpt

Early in Millennium Approaches, the first play in Tony Kushner's two-part Angels in America, we meet two couples: the Mormon husband and wife Joe and Harper Pitt, and the gay lovers Prior Walter and Louis Ironson. Although initially there appears to be no connection between the two couples, eventually they will be closely intertwined as they undergo parallel changes. Kushner foreshadows this interconnectedness early in the play through an implicit comparison between Joe's neglect of Harper and Louis' neglect of his grandmother, as well as through an implicit comparison of the two women's response to that neglect. This opening comparison also foreshadows not only key facets of the central characters but also an important theme of the two-play cycle.

When we first encounter Harper she is alone at home, talking to herself. Her first words in the play are, "People who are lonely, people left alone, sit talking nonsense to the air ..." (Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, NY: Theatre Communications Group, 1995, 22). We quickly realize that she is terribly isolated and feels neglected by her husband Joe, and that partly as a result of these problems she is losing her grip on reality: just before she hallucinates and begins talking to an imaginary travel agent, she says (again to herself), "This is why, Joe, this is why I shouldn't be left alone" (23).

When we first encounter Louis, in the play's next scene, he tells Prior about the grandmother, who has recently died. He states of her last years, "She was pretty crazy. She was up there in that home for ten years, talking to herself. I never visited" (25). The similarity to the situation involving Harper is obvious.

Important points are foreshadowed about Joe and Louis through their neglect of the women, even while the similarity in the couples' situations is emphasized. …

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