It’s almost time for the messenger to arrive.
We’re pacing about anticipating one of the biggest events in performing arts this year — coming to Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC) this weekend is the epic journey of Tony Kushner‘s Pulitzer-winning play. Both installments of Angels in America opens on Saturday!
Now that we’ve written about Theatrethreesixty‘s busy 2015, told you all you needed to know about Angels In America, and chatted with director Christopher Ling, the only thing left to do was to find out more from its dynamic cast.
We wanted to get further insight into the production, but through the actors. So we decided to talk to Alexis Wong, Belinda Hon, Dominic Lucien Luk, Lim Kien Lee, Michael Chen, Qahar Aqilah, Ivan Chan, Nicole-Ann Thomas and Sandra Sodhy about their roles, and their biggest challenges yet in the production.
This will be a fairly simple question and answer, facts-only affair so you don’t have to keep listening to us harp on about the show. Enjoy!
Who Plays Who?
Alexis Wong plays The Angel… and a few other minor roles.
In her own words, the Angel is basically the messenger who is sent to tell protagonist Prior Walter that he is a prophet.
Belinda Hon plays Harper Pitt
Harper is Mormon and married and addicted to Valium for quite a few years because she’s got agoraphobia. So whenever things get scary, she tends to run away. Unfortunately for her, the man she loves is completely and utterly not sexually attracted to her.
Dominic Lucien Luk plays Prior Walter
Prior is abandoned by his partner Louis after being diagnosed with AIDS. Prior goes through a struggle throughout Angels in America – he’s constantly trying to find out what the angel really wants from him, and why he’s a prophet when he’s suffering from AIDS.
Lim Kien Lee plays Louis Ironson
Louis was Prior’s partner for four years until he finds out that Prior has AIDS. Not sure how to handle this in the beginning, Louis leaves Prior. As a result, he is constantly consumed by guilt. He tries to redeem himself.
Michael Chen plays Joe Pitt
Joe Pitt is a republican Mormon lawyer. His personal life and religion are his biggest dilemmas throughout the entire story.
Qahar Aqilah plays Roy Cohn
Roy Cohn is a historical figure and a powerful lawyer who is sexually attracted to males, but has found a way to reconcile it with his homophobia. Trust us, google him and voila — a treasure trove of information.
Ivan Chan plays Belize & Mr. Lies
Belize is an ex-drag queen who supports Prior when he’s going through a shitstorm. Mr. Lies meanwhile is an imaginary travel agent, and a figment of Harper’s imagination.
Sandra Sodhy plays Hannah Pitt
Hannah Pitt is a very good Mormon. She tries her best to do whatever is necessary — and this drives her to destruction.
Nicole-Ann Thomas plays Rabbi Isidor Chemelwitz
Isidor Chemelwitz is the orthodox Jewish rabbi who performed the funeral service for Louis’s aunt.
Hey fellas! Was there any sort of pressure coming into this play all fresh and new?
Lim Kien Lee: When Chris first approached me, my first reaction was, are you sure, because I’m not as young as Jon Chew [who previously took on the role of Louis] and I’m actually older than the character [the character is 32 while Kien Lee is 42]. Apart from not being young enough, there was no pressure — and I must say, I kind of like this challenge!
Ivan Chan: Yes, to be honest. There is a big pressure, mainly for me to catch up with the rest, but it’s definitely a learning process. It’s a challenge for me — a good kind of challenge.
Michael Chen: Everyone was very giving as actors so it was quite fun to be in the cast. There was no pressure to create what has already been created; we were given the freedom to find our own interpretation of the characters.
How did you guys prepare for your roles?
Alexis Wong: I play the most characters (very short characters though!) so my preparation in the past year was trying to figure out differences between my roles in order to set them apart. I had to differentiate my voice and behaviour for the play, but Part 2 is great because I don’t play that many characters! Since we’re picking up from where we left off in Part 1, there needs to be a continuity — remembering what I represent and what I do to carry the story forward.
Dominic Lucien Luk: I’ve had to do some research about what AIDS actually does to you, physically — the way he walks gets worse, as physically its a lot more painful for Prior as the story progresses. I think a lot of my preparation as well as the challenge of playing Prior was showing the sickness and the pain his character feels — I’ve also spoken to people with AIDS to understand their challenges.
Tell us, what is the most difficult part about the entire thing?
Sandra Sodhy: I think the real challenge is going to be performing on the weekend! I think once we run through the whole thing, we’ll be able to see its progress.
Lim Kien Lee: Our biggest challenge and concern is to show character progress, so that people won’t be watching the same characters they see on stage for six hours. However I personally feel that the challenge I have to overcome is to be able to show development within these six hours.
Qahar Aqilah: My concern is giving everyone a level playing field so that no one sticks out too much — I mean, it’s just good ensemble acting. If you stand out as a performer in an ensemble, you put everyone else down, but if you lower yourself to blend in with the ensemble, you risk losing yourself in the rest of the ensemble. It’s needing to find that balance.
Belinda Hon: I think more or less, everyone can agree — is to do justice to the journey and the script and the journey of the characters.
Michael Chen: I think the difficult part is that we have yet to fully experience the whole six hours. We haven’t really hit the meaty part of the play yet, so we shall see how it goes when the show opens.
How is it like working with Christopher Ling this time round?
Michael Chen: One thing I have always observed is that Chris would cast actors if they have the essence of the character to begin with, or if he sees elements of the character he wants to direct in an actor. When I come into a production with him, I already have a sense of security that I bring something that he wants, so now it’s just working with him to find out which part of the character he sees in you that he wants to surface. But he gives actors the freedom to discover too.
Dominic Lucien Luk: I think Chris communicates well, he tells us his expectations — what he wants from us and what he can give us and I think he’s very clear on what we need to do. So every time we come in for rehearsals, he’ll tell us what he wants us to do for the day or for the coming few days. And I like that about him — he’s very clear and precise about what we need to do.
Sandra Sodhy: I think he’s a thinking-actor’s director because you can propose and bring things to the character which he lets you develop. He’s not rigid. He lets you flush it out and if it goes with what he wants, he will let you nurture and take ownership of it.
What do you think Tony Kushner’s Angels In America is trying to get across?
Belinda Hon: That there’s always hope. There’s always hope, but you have to keep fighting.
Alexis Wong: The things people have said to me from the last play is that the play gives a sense of what real life is about, and that everybody’s struggles appear different, but are really the same.
Michael Chen: It’s the human condition. As people, we must continue to move, evolve and grow. Life keeps moving.
Sandra Sodhy: My take on the play is that it’s layered. There’s no real black or white; different people who come to the play take away different things — things that resonate with them.
What is it about your characters that you like and can relate to?
Sandra Sodhy: There’s about four different facets to our personalities. Hannah is a perfectionist while I’m pretty easy-going, plus with this character I get to explore different sides of sexuality.
Ivan Chan: I am never that person who carries a friend; it’s always my friend carrying me. With this play, I had to play the opposite of how I am in real life. I resonated and enjoyed it, because I don’t get to be that way in real life. As Belize, I really enjoyed helping and supporting Roy who’s going through a hard time!
Belinda Hon: Harper has a lot of dashed dreams — she finds it very hard to come to terms with everything that went wrong with her life. I think I know how that feels like, as myself or Harper. It resonates with me, but at the same time being Harper almost validates how I deal with things in my life. Sometimes I want to run, and that’s what Harper does.
Thanks guys, now let’s hear from Chris!
Theatrethreesixty presents Tony Kushner’s ‘Angels In America’ at the Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC) Black Box from November 28 – 29, December 5 – 6, 12 – 13 @ Part 1 at 2pm & Part 2 at 8.30pm; December 3 & 10 @ Part 1 at 8.30pm; December 4 & 11 @ Part 2 at 8.30pm. To purchase tickets, call +603-4065 0001 or visit DPAC’s website. For more information, follow Theatrethreesixty on their Facebook page or their Facebook event page.