Prize-winning play "Angels in America" debuts today at River Campus

Thursday, March 26, 2009
KIT DOYLE ~ kdoyle@semissourian.com
"Angels in America" begins today at Rust Flexible Theatre in Cape Girardeau.

For Rob Dillon, "Angels in America: Millennium Approaches" was a play he'd always wanted to direct.

For Thomas Statler, Roy Cohn was a role he really wanted to play.

"It's a challenge and a stretch," said Statler, a senior at Southeast Missouri State University. Roy Cohn is supposed to be an old politician and Statler is 21.

Other actors in the production face more than an age obstacle: Two of the females in the cast also play men, and all but one actor have multiple roles.

The acting and technical challenges combined with the numerous awards the play has earned made "Angels" an easy pick for Southeast's Department of Theatre and Dance spring play.

The play, written by Tony Kushner, debuts at 7:30 p.m. today and continues through Saturday, then picks up again April 2 to 4. It uses eight actors to play 21 roles that tell the story of "the politics of love and the politics of government and the politics of acceptance," said Dillon, the director of the production and professor in the theater department.

"Kushner is really asking how big is our embrace," Dillon said. "That's still a very important question."

The play follows two couples: one gay couple dealing with AIDS and one straight couple dealing with homosexuality. Ethics, religion, racism and marriage thread through the play as well, and the characters toss around a certain four-letter word like a volleyball.

"The F-word is in it a lot," Dillon said. "This is strongly recommended for adults. Men kiss. There's a scene that involves anal sex, but it's all done very tastefully."

The play has no nudity, and the scene is not explicit or drawn out. The scene plays a crucial role in showing the descent of Louis Ironson while contemplating leaving his sick lover.

According to Dillon, the sexual orientation is crucial to defining the characters and forming the play, but ultimately it's about politics. And bottom line, he said, "Angels" is simply a good play.

"People deserve to have contact with Pulitzer Prize-winning plays," he said.

The play is also technically demanding, Dillon said.

The set looks like someone opened the side of a dollhouse, with a bedroom, a restaurant, a park, a hospital bed, a kitchen and a bathroom on display. Lights might illuminate a hospital room for one scene while actors sit silently in the dark "kitchen" until the light hits their scene.

With the lighting, sound coordination and a few surprises toward the end, Dillon called the play the "most challenging" they had done so far.

"Angels in America: Millennium Approaches" will be at 7:30 p.m. in the Rust Flexible Theatre today through Saturday and April 2 to 4. Tickets are available at the River Campus box office, by phone at 651-2265, at MetroTix outlets, MetroTix.com or by calling 800-293-5949.

charris@semissourian.com

388-3641

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1 University Plaza, Cape Girardeau, M, w

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