“Angels in America: Millennium Approaches”

“Angels in America: Millennium Approaches” is a moving play that discusses homosexuality and AIDS in the 80s from a very complex and sometimes introspective viewpoint. The story is set around both physical and metaphysical characters and gives us an amazing look into self-doubt and how we perceive reality.

The Director of “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches” is Clay Kirkland. With over 20 years of experience as both a teacher and director of around 30 plays here at Joliet Junior College, Kirkland brings an unobjectionable experience and reality to the moving story “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches,” which is part one in this series.

“Angels in America: Perestroika,” part two in this series, will be presented in the spring and will also be directed by Kirkland.

Kirkland says that “‘Angels in America: Millennium Approaches’ is a play of ideas more than action. I think that it will appeal to people who are intellectual and are interested in political and social issues.”

He added, “Angels also has a compelling storyline and complex, very human characters, which most theatre-goers can appreciate.” Some of the biggest challenges for the cast as well as the director has been the script itself.

Kirkland said 25 years ago he saw the original Broadway production of “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches,” and it was why he chose this play at this time. “It remains among the most memorable, powerful shows I have seen in more than four decades of theatre-going. I have always wanted to direct this show, and with the success of the recent Broadway revival and this being my penultimate year as a JJC faculty member, now seemed like a good time.”

Indeed, it is a good time – at least to do this show. Despite its age, it is just as relevant as when it debuted in 1993. Change a few names, and the characters could easily be discussing today’s political figures; the economic and cultural rhetoric belongs as much to 2018 as to the late 20th Century. And of course, its examination of the nature of life and love is timeless.

With all shows there are struggles bringing a script to life. Kathy Quezada who plays The Angel, Ella, and the Homeless woman, stated that “A couple of the largest difficulties to the show has been the sheer number of lines for memorization and the difficulty in learning some of the lines in Hebrew.”

Quezada, who was also in “She Kills Monsters,” performed last year at JJC, went on to say, “Even though I play multiple characters within the same show there will be no confusion for the audience because I am working on making every character different, not only in costuming but also in voice inflection and demeanor.”

Cris Moreno, who plays Belize and Mr. Lies stated that the main problem he has encountered with the play is the fact that he is playing a homosexual character. “As a  heterosexual man I have been having a little difficulty understanding how to connect with some of those experiences within the subject matter.”

Kirkland also stated, “I find myself having to explain a lot of cultural references in the script. It can be challenging coaching actors playing characters that are so foreign to their own life experiences.”

With a show like this, it is Kirkland’s goal is to get the audience thinking.“I hope they will be discussing the overall quality of the production and connecting the ideas and issues in the script to today’s cultural climate,” said the director.

He went on to say he hoped people would be surprised by [the show and] “Its candor; it is an unblinking, gritty look at life in the US in the late 20th century [and unfortunately, also at life in the US in 2018].”

The play is a longer show with a run time of 3 1⁄2 hours. This is not a show that is child friendly so, at least for this program, so you may consider leaving the kids at home. The play has a medium cast at 10 actors

JJC’s theatre program is known for its spectacular performance and “Angels in America: Millenium Approaches” will be no exception. If you didn’t get a chance to see the performances on Oct. 4-6 or Oct. 7, come to one of the others this upcoming season.


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