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We need Nathan Lane and Angels in America on Broadway today

Written by
David Cote

The next six weeks will bring a blizzard of Broadway openings, as a whopping 16 shows open in order to be eligible for Tony nominations. There will be plenty of new musicals, naturally, including one that pairs the formidable Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, as well as two substantial issue plays: the factory-worker drama Sweat and Oslo, a heated and info-packed paean to international diplomacy. So this spring we’re getting nourishment in addition to mountains of dessert.

But you know what I’d really like to see on Broadway? Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. Not just because it’s, yes, a masterpiece worth revisiting any time; if you saw it on Broadway more than 20 years ago, or caught the Signature Theatre Company’s 2010 revival or the outstanding HBO adaptation, you already know. It's more than that. We desperately need an intellectually demanding, politically rousing, visionary drama in our lives. We can sit around waiting for someone to write a play that dramatizes how our current President got elected and what that says about us, or we can just go back to Tony Kushner.

He has this habit of being prophetic. Kushner's meditation on globalism, terrorism and the toxic relationship between the West and the Middle East, Homebody/Kabul, opened at New York Theatre Workshop three months after September 11. Angels in America may be set in the 1980s at the height of the AIDS crisis and the Reagan revolution, but the piece remains evergreen. It's about having the moral courage to love and help people in need, whether that means a lover who's deathly sick, a wife addicted to pills, a morally censorious Mormon mom—or even Roy Cohn. He was Joseph McCarthy's right-hand man, and as chief prosecutor, sent the Rosenbergs to the electric chair. Later, in private practice, Cohn was notorious both for corruption as well as hiding his homosexuality, even as he wasted away from AIDS. A closeted, vicious hypocrite, Cohn is highly entertaining and an object lesson in evil: power with no moral rudder. 

Another interesting fact about Cohn, one that Kushner did not cover: He helped Donald J. Trump to get his start in New York business and social circles. To think that a man who enabled McCarthyism in the 1950s boosted the early career of a President who governs under a cloud of Russian influence—you could put it in a play and no one would believe it. 

You actually can see Angels in America—if you're in London. The National Theatre is reviving both parts in a production directed by Marianne Elliott (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) from April 11 to August 17. The cast includes Andrew Garfield, Russell Tovey and, as Roy Cohn, our own Nathan Lane. Bad news: The run is sold out, but the NT suggests trying the Angels Ballot: Hundreds of £20 tickets will be released in five ballots taking place across the run. Sign up to receive alerts here. The first ballot opens next Friday, March 24.

If you can't make it over, Angels in America will be broadcast live to cinemas around the UK and internationally (including cinemas across the US). Millennium Approaches will be broadcast July 20 and Perestroika July 27. Encore screenings will take place at selected cinemas starting August 4. See details at the NT Live website here.

Best of all would be for Angels to fly to us. The NT says that currently there are no plans to move Elliott's production to the West End or Broadway, but you can believe that hordes of American producers have booked their seats in the Lyttelton. We need these magnificent plays on Broadway, and might get them by the fall—or next spring.

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