March 24, 2019 – Claire M. Lorenzo
As if like a time machine, when the curtain parted, we were brought back to the 1980s—staying true to the play's famous line: “history is about to crack wide open.”
Atlantis Theatrical marks its 20th year with a local adaptation of “Angel's in America,” a work of award-winning playwright Tony Kushner. The staging of “Part One: Millennium Approaches” happened at Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati. It opened on Friday, Mar. 22.
“Angels in America” narrates the intertwined story of two couples in New York City: Drag queen Prior Walter (played by Topper Fabregas), who is dying from an acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), was left by his Jewish lover, Louis Ironson (Nelsito Gomez). Louis then met a closeted gay lawyer, Joe Pitt (Markki Stroem), during one faithful day while he was having problems of his own with his pill-popping wife, Harper (Angeli Agbayani).
Director Bobby Garcia back when he was 25 years old, had already directed a 7-hour two-part “Angels” production in 1995. Though it may seem that he just revisited the masterpiece, he said he gained a different perspective to present this story in the modern times—there’s this instinctive urge to retell this particular story, making it the apt production to celebrate Atlantis’ anniversary.
This time around, its relevance to the society might probably be dealt with more openly by the audience.
One resounding line from the play that tackled on gender discrimination goes: “Like all labels, they refer to one thing and one thing only: Where does a person so identified fit in the food chain? In the pecking order. Not ideology or sexual taste, but something much simpler—clout. … Homosexuals are men who, in 15 years of trying, can’t get a pissant antidiscrimination bill through City Council. They are men who know nobody, and who nobody knows.”
The play also explored heavily on politics, religion, and racism that still exist up to this day. Garcia also brought in a powerhouse cast definitely fit for the bill.
Besides Fabregas, Gomez, Stroem, and Agbayani, joining in are screen and stage veterans Cherie Gil (who plays Joe’s mother, Hannah), Pinky Amador (The Angel), Art Acuña (Roy Cohn), and Andoy Ranay (Belize).
More than their major roles, each of the cast gets to play minor ones as well. Interestingly enough, the actresses portrayed male characters, but their voices and built were somehow a dead giveaway.
Fabregas took the audience to a rollercoaster of emotions with his gripping performance. He may have had them shed a tear but his squeezed-in comic reliefs for sure made them guffaw.
Likewise, Acuña’s portrayal of Roy Cohn kept the viewers engaged. Nothing short of what to expect from the Emmy-nominated actor.
Joe Pitt’s character, meanwhile, fitted Stroem like a glove. One might say it was also a defining moment in his theater career, as this production is also his first try at straight plays.
As for the stage design, it was intricately arranged with a stack of shelves, drawers, desk, and lamps, with a lot of moving-around props. The mood lighting creates drama and anticipation on what’s bound to happen next.
The most important thing to note, however, is that the “Part 1” show runs for three hours—featuring three acts with two intermissions in between. Most of the scenes might be heavy to bear, the reason why you’ll be needing bathroom breaks for a good 10 to 15 minutes.
And, as the show ends and the curtain closes, you’ll be left hanging without closure. “To be continued…” it says.
We will be waiting for Part Two, Atlantis.
“Angels in America—Part One: Millennium Approaches” runs every weekend, from Mar. 22 to Apr. 7, 2019, at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City. Tickets are available at TicketWorld. Photos courtesy of Atlantis Theatrical.
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