Friday, October 23, 2009

Angels in America, Part I=nearly perfect

Performance: Angels in America
Theater: Forum Theatre, now at Round House, 8641 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD 20910 (next to the AFI movie theater)
Metro stops: Red Line, Silver spring
Genre: Political and social dram-mentary
Cost: $25, $15 for under 30. Update: Goldstar has tickets for 12.50 but there are $4 in service fees. Might be good if you are over 30 though.
Dates: Through Nov 22
Rating for Part I: 4/5 Starving Artists
We're going: Part II - ? Pick a date and we'll come with you!

Angels in America tells a captivating story. Lady AWesome pointed out that it's hard to ruin material as good as this. It's Tony Kushner's epic. But this is not to say that Forum isn't up to the challenge either. The Playbill's note from artistic director Michael Dove says that AIA is the "most Forum play possible", and I totally see it. This play is unique and challenging, but not at all inexcusable, and it's right up Forum's alley. They tackle the work with the kind of fresh eyes that we have come to expect from this young company, now in it's 6th season and new home at Roundhouse's Silver Spring stage. All told, it's a great work, and for the most part the team was up to the challenge.

I say "for the most part" because there were a few elements that didn't do it for me. I was saddened by how un-compelling I found two of the main actors (Daniel Eichner as Joe Pitt and Alexander Strain as Louis Ironson). I've seen both before, and once again I found them to be uninspiring. And yet, they keep popping up at theaters around the city, so other people must like them. Maybe it's just me. Hmm…. These two dull performances were certainly well compensated for by an otherwise marvelous cast. Casie Platt is particularly striking as Harper and Karl Miller is fantastic as Prior Walter.

I loved the set by Tony Cisek! The back of the stage is draped with a giant tarp that sort of press down on the stage. It is as if the weight of the world is crushing the characters and it adds a sense of forebodingness and gloom that services the story well. Light and sound (designed by Colin K. Bills and Matt Neilson respectively) are also used to good effect to create as sense of palpable tension on stage. This is yet another simple and well thought out production by the team at Forum.

BE FOREWARNED: this is a 3 hour and 20 minute play with two intermissions. It does not feel long at all, but I think all three of us who went that night were a little tired by the end. None of us were sad we went, but we might have rested in preparation if we had known. We are all three excited to see part II if that tells you anything. And, if you'd like to join us, shoot me an e-mail and we'll count you in.

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