Angels in America is the story about two couples that were introduced to as gay and straight. It is packed with drama and commentary on many social issues. In Act 1, in itself is power packed just in the first few scenes, most of the plot’s trajectory, information via visions, and closeted gays come out.
Drama unfolds at the brink of the story. The play opens with a funeral scene, which, in a way, sets a sombre atmosphere. Shortly after, we learn that Prior, one of the men in the gay couple, has contracted AIDS. (AIDS is introduced at the brink of the story, and just as many people automatically thinks of sickness once they hear they hear the word gay.) Seeing that there is no released cure for AIDS, we are left to assume that the grandmother’s funeral won’t be the only death mourned in the play. Louis’ reaction to the news and consultation with the Priest shows his instant disconnection form the relationship. We see in such a short matter of time a relationship on the verge of destruction. This is the same with heterosexual couple, Harper and Joe. It is revealed very quickly Harper is unstable’ and has a slight drug issue. We also learn the Joe might be harbouring secrets, and possibly living a double life. The instability and questioning they individually experience manifests to their relationship; them being emotionally and sexually disjointed and we are left to question the state of their marriage and Joe’s sexuality.
Through dreams knew info comes out. In Harpers’ first vision, a lot is learned about her. Mr. Lies is probably the superego of Joe. Her apparition is her interpretation of her husband. She probably sees him as a liar, a ghost whose personality has become wraith-like and it is hard to see him. Additionally, Mr. Lies is a travel agent; once Joe arrives he speaks to her about, travelling. And like most travel agents, they are genuinely excited to see someone experience the world, but they have money to make and so they do what they must. The travel is not for others but them. (Interestingly enough, the idea of migration resurfaces from the funeral scene, similarly how earlier the idea of death arises). Then there s the vision in which Harper and Prior speak. We not only learn that doing Drag is therapeutic for Prior but we get confirmation on Joe’s sexuality. It is thought here that other gay men have a strong ‘gaydar’ probably the reason he undoubtedly knew (similarly to the bathroom scene when Louis calls Joe “a gay Republican”). The dream scene ends leaving us with the assumption that Prior will soon meet his demise.
Throughout the first Act, one sees how much persons seem to be in the closet. Louis seems to want to hide his lifestyle from his family. Joe is struggling with his true feelings and hiding his preference from his wife. However, Roy takes the cake. Roy is a different brand of closeted gay. He are a part of men who are on the ‘down-low’. They believe that casual sex among each other is okay because it’s just sex. They go home to their wives; they go to their businesses, never once thinking that they are bisexuals, because there are no feelings attached to their physical desires. They are the same men who publicly bash homosexuality because in their mind they have convinced themselves that they do not fall in that grouping. Roy believes that homosexuality is coupled with weakness, and as a man with power he cannot be gay, despite how many men he has slept with. The three situations show that the varying inner struggles gay men through. There is a clear commentary throughout the play on not the lives of gays but conflicts of gays.
Angels In America came out the gate swinging. It is a truly eventful play that makes one rethink so much about life and love.