Angels leave Lane; Curtain comes down on powerful production

Angels leave Lane; Curtain comes down on powerful production

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Aaron Smart plays the role of Mr. Lies in “Angels in America” in the Lane Ragozzino Performance Hall.
Photo: Andre Casey
Prior Walter, played by David Arnold reaches up to the angel, played by Felix Monet in the closing scene of “Angels in America” in the Lane Ragozzino Performance Hall.Photo: Andre Casey

Prior Walter, played by David Arnold reaches up to the angel, played by Felix Monet in the closing scene of “Angels in America” in the Lane Ragozzino Performance Hall.
Photo: Andre Casey

Tony Kushner’s award winning play “Angels in America” closed its season at Lane Community College on May 3. The powerful and controversial play focuses on the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. Already an admirer of this work, I attended with eager anticipation and was not disappointed.

The production was professional and innovative. “I’m very proud of the way the production came across,” Brian Haimbach, Lane Theater Faculty Lead and producer of “Angels in America” said. “It was visually stunning thanks to Tim Rogers of Oakhill School. His projections gave the show a level of sophistication I was hoping for.”

To support what was happening on stage, backdrops kept changing, including one of the earth revolving, one of Doris Day singing and dancing and one of a city hall of justice.

The cast and crew did justice to this masterful play when they brought it to life at Lane.

A play is more than a script, set design, lighting, sound, costumes, makeup and acting. These elements and the serious subject matter, combined with the vision of the producer, made this the impressive show that it was.

Haimbach chose to screen a video titled “The Failure to Act: The Reagan Administration’s Deliberate Failure to Address the Aids Epidemic,” which I found moving and a fitting beginning to the show.

The film provided information on the rising death toll from AIDS in the United States in the 1980s. Five years after the disease was named, it had claimed 20,000 lives, according to the video. Reagan, it states, acted only when forced by public opinion.

Haimbach commented that he is proud of the quality of work done by the actors, who were mostly Lane students. “It used to be that there were as many community members as students on stage,” he said. “Now we are focusing our efforts on giving our current students the opportunity to have major roles.”

I was thrown when Lane student Marly Gross appeared playing an older male doctor. Initially, this posed two credibility stretches. Later, when other male characters appeared on stage, played by females, it became part of the play’s unique flavor, but did not disguise the fact that casting actors for certain parts had proven difficult.

Jon Sims gave a convincing performance as the conflicted Joe Porter. “It was an absolutely incredible experience,” Sims said.” I have never grown so much from one show. The experiences I’ve had while working on it are something I will take with me through the rest of my career.”

Eugene actor David Helvey played politically ruthless Roy Cohn well and to the hilt. However, it seemed as though he was playing Al Pacino, who starred in the movie, rather than a unique version of Cohn from his own experience. I think the play would have been better served if he had forgotten all about Pacino.

Aaron Smart, who played the roles of Mr. Lies and Prior 1, presented his characters with appropriate low-key charisma. “It was a real pleasure to work on a show that’s so important,” Smart said. “It’s a great feeling whenever you can do what you love and be motivated by something greater than yourself.”

At the end an angel entered from above, stealing an already great show.

Aaron Smart plays the role of Mr. Lies in “Angels in America” in the Lane Ragozzino Performance Hall.Photo: Andre Casey

Aaron Smart plays the role of Mr. Lies in “Angels in America” in the Lane Ragozzino Performance Hall.
Photo: Andre Casey