Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, July 15, 1999

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Derek Calibre, as Prior Walter, cowers at the sight of an angel
played by Melinda Maltby in "Angels in America: Perestroika."

Cast, crew soar in ‘Angels’


Bullet "Angels in America: Perestroika": At Manoa Valley Theatre, 2833 East Manoa Road, 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 1. Tickets: $20. Call 988-6131.

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin


IF the Hawaii State Theatre Council scheduled its Po'okela Awards program to coincide with the actual theater season, Manoa Valley Theatre's season closing production of "Angels In America: Perestroika" would be up for "Pokies" in several technical categories at least.

Director J. Thomas Kidd brings Tony Kushner's sprawling surrealist fantasy to life with excellent support from the tech crew. Darren Hochstedler's sharply slanted multilevel set and striking lighting plots create an arresting environment that reaches from the boroughs of New York to the realms of a Godless contemporary heaven. Peggy Krock (costumes), Jason Taglianetti (sound design) and Ronald Perry (technical director) add other essential components.

The cast is anchored by Gregory Scott Harris (Belize) and Michael K. Pa'ekukui (Louis). Both appeared in the same roles when MVT staged "Angels In America: Millennium Approaches" two years ago. Kidd has assembled a cast around them that has no weak links or miscast actors.

The story is a rambling hodgepodge of comedy, drama, fantasy and raw language that picks up where the previous one ended: Sensitive, gay, Mormon, Republican lawyer Joe Pitt (Jesse Michael Mothershed) has left his wife (Kristen Van Bodegraven) to pursue a relationship with Louis, an "intensely secular" gay Jew who dumped his previous boyfriend, Prior (Derek Calibre), after learning that Prior had AIDS. Belize, an acquaintance of Prior and Louis, is a flamboyant gay African-American nurse whose patients include Roy M. Cohn (Walter S. Eccles II), a conservative, Jewish, anti-Semitic, gay, racist homophobe. Cohn says he has terminal liver cancer but knows he is actually dying of AIDS.

Martha Walstrum has two key roles as Joe's mother and the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg (Rosenberg was executed for her role in the communist spy ring that stole American nuclear weapons data for the Soviet Union after World War II). Melinda Maltby spends much of the play being hoisted or lowered on cables as the angel who speaks to Prior in the more surrealistic scenes.

"Angels One" was essentially a straight rant on the Reagan administration's slowness in responding to AIDS. It effectively conveyed the horrors of the epidemic by depicting Prior's physical disintegration. "Angels Two" is far less focused, and the message much less clear. The straightforward experiences of gay men in love are juxtaposed with Prior's increasingly surreal experiences as the designated prophet of the heavenly host. We watch, but with much less emotional attachment.

This isn't for the squeamish. Kushner uses every basic epithet for Jews, African Americans and homosexual men. He also slings non-PC material at mainstream Christians, Mormons, Zionists and Republicans. The language, and the sight of men kissing and fondling each other, was evidently more than many could handle last night. The crowd shrank during each intermission.

Walstrum does a fine job as Joe's mother, and reveals a rarely seen side of her acting skills in a scene opposite Maltby. Harris and Pa'ekukui again play "gay" with complete believability; Harris has many of the best lines and nails them all. Eccles almost steals the show with his success in illuminating human qualities in the show's designated "bad fairy."

Do It Electric
Click for online
calendars and events.

E-mail to Features Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin