Monday, February 25, 2008

Angels in Cookeville--the Review

Teacher on the Radio is in today's Herald-Citizen with a review of Angels in America.

Local Theatre Review: 'Angels in America' transcends Playhouse's small space
Monday, Feb 25, 2008

Special to the HERALD-CITIZEN

COOKEVILLE -- The frank topics addressed in Tony Kushner's "Angels in America" are matched by the play's ambitious, ambiguous and ultimately hopeful messages.

The Tech Players' version of this epic play is currently in production at the Backdoor Playhouse.

At first, a play so complex and controversial seems like an odd fit for Cookeville. But with a compassionate group of actors committed to an inspired interpretation of Kushner's material, the 1980s New York where most of the show takes place suddenly seems incredibly close to Tennessee.

Confronting issues such as gays, Republicans and gay Republicans, the play hilariously combines fantasy and reality, politics and pop culture, spirituality and sexuality.

The show centers on the troubles faced by two couples, made difficult by overlapping plot lines.

Amy Byrne amazes as the hazily confused "Harper Pitt." Evan Montgomery moves us as Harper's husband, "Joe Pitt," a conflicted soul who eloquently grapples with his homosexuality and a Mormon training that denies it.

In his version of "Louis Ironson," Matthew Feliss fosters an emotionally complicated portrait of how one man faces the fear that he will lose his lover to AIDS. Purposeful and profound, proud yet vulnerable, Jimmy Rose's "Prior Walter" confronts the terror of an epidemic with humor, doubt and love.

The emotionally vast cast would not be complete without David Davidson's darkly chilling "Roy Cohn," Shane Langford's caustic "Belize," Lillian Rose Crouse's virtuoso performances as "Hannah Pitt" and so many others, or Jennifer Dotson-Creter's awesome "Angel."

Without a large auditorium or limitless production budget, the dynamic direction of Mark Harry Creter transcends the small size of the space, allowing audience members to confront their feelings.

Awed by emotional muscle and dramatic flare, many theater-goers discussed their anticipation of the play's Part Two this April, even as they departed the back of the Jere Whitson building, overwhelmed by a near-perfect Part One.

Andrew William Smith is an instructor of English at Tennessee Technological University.

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