Having brought the first half of Angels in America to Malaysian audiences in 2014, Theatrethreesixty chose to premiere the entirety of Tony Kushner‘s six-hour epic this year. Held at Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC) from November 28 to December 13, both parts of the play were staged each run — alternating between Part 1 and Part 2 at 3:00pm and 8:30pm respectively.
Angels in America: Part 2 – Perestroika kicks off with the world’s oldest-living Bolshevik delivering a shrill and urgent philosophical speech, washed over in an ominous, red glow. It doesn’t take long until we’re back in the real world; nervous, Mormon husband Joe is with Louis in the latter’s apartment, contemplating sex.
Soon enough, Louis licks Joe’s face, digs his hand into Joe’s crotch, and the two men begin kissing.
Elsewhere, worlds collide, mannequins come to life, and the ghost of a Jewish woman sings “Tumbalalaika” sweeter than a nightingale to a dying man. Kushner’s fantastical script is anything but expected, bursting with zaniness.
For a staging of this scale, Angels in America was daring in executing sexual events as called for in the text.
But it’s a double-edged sword: once the initial shock wears off, Theatrethreesixty’s Perestroika doesn’t seem to carry the same climactic build-up of its predecessor.
While Millenium Approaches exploded in smoke, light, debris and powder, Perestroika simply resolves. Prior’s ascension to heaven and Hannah’s orgasm, for example, felt underwhelming in comparison to the highs of the prequel.
Running at approximately three hours, the play is presented in three segments, split by two intermissions. Director Christopher Ling, averse to blackouts, maintains the set used in Millennium Approaches which allows for simultaneity and seamless transitions in-between scenes.
This staging succeeds in getting Kushner’s sprawling story across. It’s a funny witty play, and its actors largely pull off their comedic turns with relish. Despite the script’s intricacy and absurdity, Perestroika maintains the accessibility of its predecessor even if it does so with less of a bang.
Though some of its performers remain fully-committed — Michael Chen, Ivan Chan and Belinda Hon particularly continue pushing through — several seem a little disconnected. Of note was Dominic Lucien Luk‘s Prior, which tugged at the heartstrings as an AIDS-afflicted man in pain, but suffered from awkward verbal delivery.
Maybe everybody just needed a little bit more time to prepare. If revived next year, there’s no doubt Perestroika could reward viewers greatly, as evident in Theatrethreesixty’s re-staging of Millenium Approaches.
Angels in America concluded its run on 13 December at Damansara Performing Arts Centre.