The Struggle with Identity in Angels in America: No One is Truly Who They Appear To BE…

Angels in America by Tony Kushner is a play filled with death, decay and destruction as many of the characters appear to grapple with something-whether physically or emotionally. The review by Stephen Greco focuses on two different plays, Millennium Approaches and Perestroika who both share similar characters and themes. Millennium Approaches and Perestroika are said to be based on actual people and the lives they may have lived. Roy Cohn, an American Attorney, gained special prominence during the Army-McCarthy hearing, while Ethel Rosenberg, who was one of the clients he represented was executed in 1953 for espionage (spying and leaking nuclear information to the Soviet Union).

In the play, many of the characters battle with some form of identity crisis, Roy being one of them. Roy for example, is a homosexual, however refers to himself as a heterosexual male who simple is attracted to men. He, along with others struggle with this identity crisis of not knowing their place in the world and in essence who they truly are. Many appear stuck, either in an unhappy marriage, job or life in general but does not seem to believe in being true to one self as many of them remain in denial throughout the entire Act (1).

The play also demonstrates that there are however consequences based on the choices some of the characters made. Again, Roy a homosexual, experiences this first hand as he is stricken with the deadly disease of AIDS. And although AIDS is not only subject to homosexuals, Roy’s reckless and carefree behavior stood the chance of possibly revealing the secret he tried so hard to deny and contain. Another interesting character, Louis also struggles with various forms of identity through the rejection of his grandmother to the sexual preference which he has now identified himself with. Although Louis appears more at peace with himself then Roy, he too struggles with identity in that he does not appear to have a true sense of what it is to love and be loved.

Angels in America is a play centered around the identity of various individuals who personally struggle with who they are or what they are experiencing in their lives. Harper is defined by the constant intake of medication that she takes which oftentimes causes hallucinations while her husband struggles too with his sexuality and the need to mask his true emotions, and in reality his true self. The play itself is dynamic and causes readers to ask the question “Are people who they truly appear to be?” or are they just existing in a world where tolerance is rarely welcomed for the things that seem unnatural or morally wrong or corrupt?!


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