Minor Quibbles

Well, crap. I’m thrilled so far with Angels. Mary-Louise Parker is stealing the show as Harper, and Justin Kirk is fantastic as Prior. The homage to Cocteau and the casting of the prior Priors were both brilliant. But why, in their trimming and reshaping, did Kushner and Nichols have to cut my two favorite lines from Millennium Approaches? When we first see Harper, she really should be saying:

People who are lonely, people left alone, sit talking nonsense to the air, imagining…beautiful systems dying, old fixed orders spiraling apart…

When you look at the ozone layer, from the outside, from a spaceship, it looks like a pale blue halo, a gentle, shimmering, aureole encircling the atmosphere encircling the earth. Thirty miles above our heads, a thin layer of three-atom oxygen molecules, product of photosynthesis, which explains the fussy vegetable preference for visible light, its rejection of darker rays and emanations. Danger from without. It’s a kind of gift, from God, the crowning touch to the creation of the world: guardian angels, hands linked, make a spherical net, a blue-green nesting orb, a shell of safety for life itself. But everywhere, things are collapsing, lies surfacing, systems of defense giving way…This is why, Joe, this is why I shouldn’t be left alone. [ellipses are Kushner’s]

So much of the play is built from that imagery, established so early on. I imagine that Nichols thought it just too much for the opening moments of the film — too theatrical, too obvious, too wordy for a character we had just met. It’s Kushner at his best, though. “Systems of defense giving way” is, I think, the play’s richest metaphor.

I was even more annoyed by the cutting of this brief exchange, which really should follow Belize’s description of the sky as “mauve.”

Belize: All day long it’s felt like Thanksgiving. Soon, this…ruination will be blanketed white. You can smell it — can you smell it?
Louis: Smell what?
Belize: Softness, compliance, forgiveness, grace.

Perestroika is about softness, compliance, forgiveness, and grace — grace, most of all. Can’t wait until next week.