Tony Kushner is taken to task from time to time for his harsh treatment of Joe Pitts, the closeted, Republican, Mormon lawyer whose self-hatred motivates so much of the plays’ drama (and poisons his marriage to Harper). Those critics must ignore this passage, which is among the most beautiful and heartbreaking Kushner has written. It’s been at the very back of my mind for nearly a week now but came front and center earlier this evening.
My wife surprised me yesterday afternoon with the Angels in America soundtrack. “Quartet” accompanies the scene that holds the rare honor of having made me cry two nights in a row. What can I say? Art is my refuge from a life of hardened cynicism. I can only imagine what condition I’ll be in on Sunday night when Louis delivers the Kaddish.
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?
I expect conservatives to be offended by many of the lines spoken by Kushner’s characters; I expect conservative critics to acknowledge the distinction between the message of a particular character and the message of the work as a whole. But that is expecting too much of anyone who writes for a partisan magazine (whether the NRO or The Nation) in a climate like ours.
“Sleep the sleep of the just” is my favorite line from Moyers’s speech. That strange metaphor — the idea that sleeping soundly somehow demonstrates moral rightness — has shown up in a few odd places lately, most notably in the frequent reports that President Bush is sleeping well despite (or, perhaps, because of) the war. Well thank God for small blessings, eh?