Angels descend on Lane

Jon Sims (left) plays the role of Joe Porter while Nick Cervantes (middle) and David Arnold (right) play the roles of Louis Ironson and Prior Walter in the Ragozzino Performance Hall on Tuesday, April 21.Photo: August Frank

Jon Sims (left) plays the role of Joe Porter while Nick Cervantes (middle) and David Arnold (right) play the roles of Louis Ironson and Prior Walter in the Ragozzino Performance Hall.
Photo: August Frank

Penny Scott

“It’s acting. It’s not real. Honestly, if your moral fiber is threatened so much by touching the lips of someone of the same gender, you need to chill a little bit. It’s a job,” remarked actor Jon Sims who plays Joe in “Angels in America”.

Set in New York City during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, “Angels in America” is a play telling the story of two couples in conflict. It deals with homosexuality, politics and religion. The two-part production will be performed in the Ragozzino Performance Hall on Lane’s main campus.

Part one, Millennium Approaches, is directed by Brian Haimbach, Lane Theatre Faculty Lead. Part two, Perestroika, is directed by Lane theater student Anna Parks.

“I adore this play. The craftsmanship of it is impeccable. Tony Kushner is an amazing playwright and this is his masterwork,”Haimbach said.”I love the way it works dramaturgically, the episodic nature of it, how the juxtaposition of the scenes works in a dialectical response way. Each of the scenes respond to each other.”

Producing the play has been challenging remarked Haimbach. “It’s a huge undertaking, and it gives us a chance to play with our toys. There’s lots of projections, lots of sound and lights, the angel flies in at the end, so there’s lots of stuff going on.”

Haimbach said that he’s been wanting to direct “Angels in America” for a long time and that the political message is something he resonates with strongly. “It bashes Ronald Reagan in the face every time it can,” he said.

The play presents a clear political perspective, Haimbach said, adding that “political progress is hard. It takes courage to change and change is necessary. Those who are not willing to change, who are stuck in such conservative views, they are keeping this country from moving forward and keeping individuals from achieving what they can achieve.”

The acting choices are strong Haimbach commented, adding that he is very pleased with the progress of the production.

“The structure of ‘Angels in America’ is genius,” he said. “It challenges the borders of realism in beautiful ways.” It’s also a very gay play he added. “I’m a very gay person. I love all the characters, even the ones that we’re not really supposed to like.”

Sims commented that being in the production has changed him as a person. “With the content and the questions it raises and seeing how these characters deal with their problems, it opens a lot of questions,” he said, adding that he found himself asking what he would do if faced with the same challenges.

“Angels in America” deals with a sensitive subject in a sensitive way without beating around the bush, commented Sims. “It’s been quite the experience,” he said.

The play contains some nudity and sex. David Arnold who plays Pryor, a character dying of AIDS, said about being nude on stage, “I’m getting my body examined for lesions. I’ve never been an overly modest person when it comes to nudity. So that part’s not a problem. I just hate the idea of making people uncomfortable. That part is something I have to get over.”

Lydia Reynolds, who plays Harper, commented that the play not only supports gay rights, it’s about the people connected to the men and what they are going through. She said that when her character’s husband admits to being gay, it gives Harper the strength to explore and find who she is. “Realizing this has really helped me in my life,” she said.

“At first when I read Harper, I didn’t like her,” Reynolds said. “I thought she was too emotional, too catty.” However, after working with the character Reynolds said that she now understands Harper and has connected with her.