It is no secret that homosexuality is a controversial topic. Since the 1970s it has taken the place of racism as the main taboo in America. Many people in the nation still simply do not talk about it. Because of that it still surprises many to hear about all of the different stories and lives that homosexuals leave. Many are married to people of the opposite sex and many live lives of mostly solitude. These are completely accurate sentiments but people do not realize that it is reality. There is a play called “Angels in America” that follows the story of 5 people, and four of them are gay men. The play is written in such a way that there is strong language, sex, and a scene of nudity. The way that the characters are written is accurate for people in the real world. However, the content is very strong and mature for the stage. Many have tried to ban the play for many reasons, but “Angels in America” is an important play and deserves to be read.
“Angels in America” is about 5 people – a Mormon couple, in which the husband is gay, a gay couple in which one of the partners has AIDS, and a lonely gay man who also has AIDS. These are three very different stories that connect with each other and show entirely different perspectives. All of these perspectives are also all controversial ones. Mormonism is quite controversial and homosexuality within the members of the church is even more controversial and taboo. The wife has a drug addiction and emotional instability, and she and her husband struggle greatly to make even a friendship work. The husband ends up with one of the other men in the play. This other gay man left his long-time partner as he was dying with AIDS. This long time couple and all of the issues they face with the AIDS and other prospective partners is very mature material. There is a scene of gay sex and they use a great amount of swearing. And finally, the lonely gay lawyer is extremely foul-mouthed. This is no exaggeration. Also he hires a nurse and there is scene in which she examines him and he is completely naked. As previously stated, everything in the play is completely plausible and accurate, but still can easily be seen as inappropriate.
Looking past this however, there are so many themes that are essential to the human experience. The character with AIDS whose partner leaves him (Prior) is left completely alone at the end of the play. Imagine dying of an incurable disease and being left be the person you are in love with and were with for four years. You are completely alone and live a lifestyle that many people look down on. He never thought about being with any other men while his partner has been with at least two other men while his partner is in the hospital. He is extremely lonely at the end but all of the characters are lonely and none of them know how to deal with it. There is also the theme of acceptance. When the Mormon man comes out as a gay his mother completely shuts him down and his wife abandons him because none of them understand. Homosexuality is such a taboo that they cannot get past it even though someone they care about is involved. Others in the play show acceptance for homosexuality but not for the disease. This play is a prime example of how not everyone’s lives are perfect even if they first start out perfect.
“Angels in America” won the Pulitzer Prize as well as the Tony Award for best play. Those able to look past the fact that it does have very mature content are able to see this piece of theater work for what it really is. The play is clearly well written and has extremely deep content. The play mixes comedy and tragedy very well and makes the characters personable and universally receivable. The play brings big subjects such as religion, race, and sexuality to light. There are many people who are opposed to plays such as this one because it is against family values or “very sensitive to issues of censorship” (5). However, there is a point made in “The Laramie Project,” a play which actually addresses “Angels in America” in which a character points out to his homophobic parents “well, you know, homosexuality is a sin – she kept saying that – and I go, Mom, I just played a murderer tonight, and you didn’t seem to have a problem with that” (77-78). If those who oppose pieces of theater that are against family values were to go by their own word, then we would have to get rid of classics such as “Macbeth,” “Sweeney Todd,” and “West Side Story.”
The more that we integrate topics of homosexuality into the lives of Americans, the easier it will be to view plays such as “Angels in America.” Plays like this are innovative for their time and therefore are difficult for the general population to accept. The play is indeed a lot to wrap one’s mind around, but well worth the time. This play truly does make one think and would be a stretch for any actor. The content is complex and tragic, but life is also complex and tragic. Struggles such as these are very real and should not be kept quiet.
Kaufman, Moisés. The Laramie Project. New York: Vintage, 2001. 77-78. Print.
Sova, Dawn B. Banned Plays: Censorship Histories of 125 Stage Dramas. New York: Facts on File, 2004. 3-5. Print.