Angels in America’s relevance

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ART ACUÑA as Roy Cohn and Markki Stroem as Joe Pitt during the technical rehearsals of Angels in America. — ATLANTIS THEATER GROUP’S FACEBOOK PAGE

ANGELS IN AMERICA is about life and hope in the face of death and despair, and about our interconnectedness as a community and how we need to find a way to discuss our differences by finding common ground.”

Those were the words of Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group’s Bobby Garcia, who first directed the play 25 years ago, in a video shown at last week’s press conference in New World Makati Hotel. “There’s so much in Angels in America that is relevant to what’s going on in the world today. It’s important for a new generation to come see the show.”

Atlantis is kicking off its 20th anniversary with the Manila restaging of American playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, from March 22 to April 7 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City.

The play won 10 Tony Awards including Best Play when it opened on Broadway in 1994 as well as Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1993. It then won a Tony for Best Revival of a Play in 2018.

Millennium Approaches is the first of the two-part play set in New York City in the 1980s whose characters are stuggling with the effects of the AIDS crisis. When Prior Walter finds out that he has the AIDS virus, his lover Louis Ironson, leaves him. Meanwhile, Joe Pitt, a closeted gay lawyer struggles in a marriage with Harper, his drug addicted wife. The two couples’ fates intertwine throughout the story.

HIV refers to the human immunodeficiency virus which, left untreated, causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), which is the failure of the immune system fight opportunistic infections and cancers.

While set in the early days of the AIDS crisis over 30 years ago in the US, the play is still very relevant, especially in the Philippines where, while the prevalence rate of infection is still low, the rate of increase is rising rapidly — and those getting infected are younger — 32% of the 877 new HIV confirmed positive individuals in December 2018, according to the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) were 15 to 24 years old at the time of testing, 48% were 25 to 34 years old.

“What we want to do now is to prevent it, as opposed to keeping it hidden and keeping it as taboo… What we learned from Angels in America was how it started and how we can potentially prevent it now,” said Markki Stroem who plays Joe Pitt, about the story’s timeliness.

“We’re trying to give you at least a small picture of how it felt because it was really life or death. you really thought you really think that when your partner or friend gets AIDS, the next day, he’s going to die. I like the fact that the way you will see certain graphic images in this play is kind of very head on, because I personally think that our audiences need to be challenged as well, to see how graphic it really was,” said Nelsito Gomez who plays Louis Ironson, about the play’s graphic and intimate scenes.

The play also stars Art Acuña as Roy Cohn, Pinky Amador as the Angel, Angeli Bayani as Harper Pitt, Topper Fabregas as Prior Walter, and Andoy Ranay as Belize, with the cast playing multiple roles throughout the show.

“In this play, [as they say], art is supposed to comfort the disturbed and discomfort those who are comfortable. It’s going to create questions that aren’t just for society, not just but what’s happening right now in our own government, and our own society, but in the world,” said Cherie Gil who plays Hannah Pitt.

“It’s definitely a must see, not just because it’s about homosexuality. It’s about everybody’s hypocrisy… It will open up a lot of questions. That’s what art is supposed to do.” — Michelle Anne P. Soliman

For tickets, visit The play contains strong language and mature content and is meant for audiences over the age of 16.