Peculiar Portrayals: Mormons on the Page, Stage, and Screen

By Mark T. Decker; Michael Austin | Go to book overview

1
Center and Periphery
Mormons and American Culture in Tony Kushner’s
Angels in America

CRISTINE HUTCHISON-JONES

Literature and film have long provided ample evidence of mainstream America’s conflicting and conflicted perceptions of and feelings about Mormons and their beliefs, and Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes is a case in point. Immediately accorded canonical status when it premiered in New York in 1992, critics labeled Angels “the most thrilling American play in years,”1 and scholars have since declared that “Angels restored to American theatre an ambition it has not enjoyed since the days of Eugene O’Neill or Arthur Miller.”2 Winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for drama (for Part I: Millennium Approaches) and two Tony Awards for best play (1993 for Millennium Approaches and 1994 for Part II: Perestroika), Angels has also enjoyed international success with audiences. Since 2003, the HBO Films adaptation has garnered further critical accolades (two Screen Actors Guild Awards, five Golden Globes, and eleven Emmys, including outstanding writing for a miniseries, movie, or dramatic special for Kushner’s screenplay), and the DVD release has created a much wider audience for Kushner’s work than the stage could offer.3 Within this acclaimed exploration of AIDS, queer identity, and the conservative politics of the Reagan era, Kushner portrays three Mormon characters whose struggles with their sexual identity, love, politics, and religion are central to his larger vision.

In the afterword to Perestroika, Kushner points out, “We organize the world for ourselves, or at least we organize our understanding of it; we reflect it, refract it, criticize it, grieve over its savagery and help each other to discern, amidst the gathering dark, paths of resistance, pockets

-5-

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