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A big season for Tony Kushner

October 23, 2010 |  7:00 am

TonyAmong the many issues in "Angels in America," Tony Kushner's millennial epic about gay men coping with the AIDS pandemic in Ronald Reagan's America, is that overused word in the national lexicon: "Change."

The play offers an answer to the question: "How do people change?" -- from a talking "dummy," the mother figure in a western diorama: "God splits the skin with a jagged thumbnail from throat to belly and then plunges a huge, filthy hand in ..."


If that sounds painful. It's meant to.

Nearly two decades after writing the passage, Kushner says that change, personal or political, hasn't become any easier. On the eve of the first major revival of his Tony  Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, at New York's intimate off-Broadway Signature Theatre, the playwright adds that, if anything, progress seems more painful than ever.

"Change is always about loss, and we're losing all the time," he said. "We tend to learn through holocaust, more effectively and thoroughly, than by anticipating the holocaust. It would be great if we could change our course knowing that if we don't, then something truly horrendous and unforgiving is about to happen. But we rarely catch it in time."

Graphing that all-too-human resistance to change and the complications that come in its wake is a leitmotif of the sprawling Kushner oeuvre, including "Angels," the musical "Caroline, Or Change," and his newest play, "The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures." The revival of "Angels," directed by longtime Kushner collaborator Michael Greif, is the inaugural production of the Signature's season devoted to Kushner's work. It will be followed by the New York premiere of "Intelligent Homosexual's Guide" (what the playwright calls "IHO") and conclude with his loose adaptation of Pierre Corneille's visionary “The Illusion.”

For the full Arts & Books profile of the playwright, click here.

-- Patrick Pacheco

Photo: The playwright in New York at the Signature Theatre. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

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