Theatre review: Angels in America Part 2: Perestroika, Q Theatre

By Janet McAllister

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Chelsie Preston-Crayford and Matt Minto are among a polished and eloquent cast.
Chelsie Preston-Crayford and Matt Minto are among a polished and eloquent cast.

"The great question before us is are we doomed? ... Can we change in time?" So begins the grandiose and triumphant four-hour finale to Shane Bosher's last production as Silo Theatre artistic director.

The play itself changes with time to spare. The repetitive squabbles of Part 1 look like a mere prologue once this satisfying Part 2 begins: if characters were in shock in Millennium Approaches, in Perestroika they are angry.

The disputes here - mostly short, pas de deux scenes - are enjoyable both for the complexity of the relationships they create and the succulent insults traded.

Secondary characters introduced in Part 1 are now fleshed out: Joe's unpredictable Mormon mother; Belize the nurse (although it's a sin of writing omission that the black character only lives to serve, and be the bitter lawyer's cheeky "negation"); and of course the angel (Mia Blake).

Sumptuously wardrobed by Elizabeth Whiting, the angel is both literally awesome and slightly skew-whiff, as befits a powerful being with no imagination.

The play emphasises the absurd comedy of its own surrealism, as well as using the fantasy to muse big on desire and mortality, offering alternative crisis theology. One man's heaven is another man's hell. Lose God and you lose libido.

Characters share dreams while society's collective hallucinations - the morality of Reagan's America - continue (in-jokes range from the Contra scandal to The Wizard of Oz).

The cast is magnificent - they're polished, believable, focused, eloquent and at ease. The wordy script is their plaything.

Rachael Walker's granite-grey set is both memorial and corporate monolith.

The epidemic styling is slightly sanitised - we see blood but not excrement, bringing to mind the characters' talk of "safe, chemical sex" - but the men with Aids do look sick.

Soapy but not soppy, Perestroika is an uplifting play of interesting ideas. Fantastic - in all senses of the word.

Review

What: Angels in America Part 2: Perestroika
When and where: Until April 13, Q Theatre, Queen St.

- NZ Herald

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