Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

22/03/2014 - 13/04/2014

Production Details


Since becoming Artistic Director of Silo thirteen years ago, Shane Bosher has long dreamt about directing Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. As he prepares to leave this position, his dream has become a reality. From March 21 Angels in America comes to Auckland, marking the first time that this iconic two-parter has ever been performed in its entirety in New Zealand. 

Angels in America brings together one of the strongest casts Silo has assembled in recent years – Mia Blake (No. 2, Tartuffe), Alison Bruce (Top of the Lake, Speaking in Tongues), Stephen Lovatt (Top of the Lake, When The Rain Stops Falling), Gareth Reeves (War Horse, 360), Dan Musgrove (Holding the Man, Underbelly, Midsummer), Jarod Rawiri (The Arrival, Harry, The Brothers Size), Chelsie Preston Crayford (Underbelly: Razor, That Face) and Matt Minto (Home and Away, The Blue Rose). 

Winning a Pulitzer and pair of Tony Awards, with numerous international restagings and a multi-award winning HBO adaptation in 2003, Angels in America’s critical evaluation has always been superlative and sincere, with many hailing the work as one of the greatest plays of the twentieth century. 

Premiering in 1993, the production revealed a brutal depiction of life in the capitalistic 1980’s. Whilst being applauded for its exploration of social issues it conversely caused unrest from conservative groups who were blindsided by its frank treatment of homosexuality, drug addiction, religion and AIDS. This coupled with male nudity – albeit brief, was enough to create widespread controversy and protests. This work was a game changer and its cultural impact was phenomenal.

A sombre work, however, this is not. Fundamentally, this is a story about love, compassion and hope, which has stood the test of time. Dramatic, heroic, hilarious and daring, Angels In America captured a zeitgeist of the 1980s which translates to the current day all too readily. It’s about people moving toward an uncertain future, so in a period of financial crisis and climate change, it’s a timely revival. 

This resonating work is a fitting farewell for Shane Bosher – an Artistic Director that serves to create dialogue between traditional theatre audiences, the mainstream and counter-culture. Bosher’s tenure at Silo has consistently pushed the envelope regarding real-world issues. 

For those who are well practised in the art of digesting TV box sets in single-day sittings, both parts will be performed back-to-back every weekend from March 29 for a truly epic, world-shifting experience. Alternatively, audiences can experience each part independently.

“It ranks as nothing less than one of the greatest plays of the twentieth century.” THE NEW YORK OBSERVER 

21, 22, 25, 26, 27 March, 1, 3, 8, 10 April 

PART TWO: PERESTROIKA: 28, 29 March, 2, 4, 9, 11 April.

COMBINED PERFORMANCES: 29, 30 March, 5, 6, 12 and 13 April 
Book both parts together and save big with Silo’s Double Feature deal 

Q Theatre, 305 Queen Street, Auckland CBD
Tickets: $35 – $65 (service fees apply)
Bookings: Q Theatre – or 09 309 977109 309 9771

A Gay Fantasia on National Themes
Tony Kushner
For more on Tony Kushner visit: 


It’s 1985. Reagan is backing a culture of ruthless self-interest. The cold war is ending. The ozone layer is melting. New Yorkers are learning how to survive a plague. It’s at this tipping point that the great work begins.
Prior has big news. And his firebrand leftie boyfriend isn’t coping with it. Harper is popping pills as fast as she can; her husband is wrestling with truth versus reality. Roy is ravaged by sickness but clinging on to corruption.

Told with exuberance, wit, energy and an almost apocalyptic sense of play, Tony Kushner’s wild fantasia carries the audience headlong through an astonishing theatrical landscape populated by communists, capitalists, Mormons, rabbis, mothers, homos and ghosts.

Great plays always have something to say to us. This one has the pulse of the urgent present. It is dramatic. It is hilarious. It is a melodrama. It is a soap opera. It is heroic. It is daring. It is human. It is all of the things.
And that’s only half of the story. 


Righto. So Part One finished with a doozy of a cliffhanger.

Something called God created humankind to stir things up a bit, then went AWOL. An angel has come crashing through a ceiling and told Prior that it’s up to him to save the world. Wrapped up in the kind of Jewish guilt that would make even Woody Allen skedaddle, Louis is continuing his own form of moral masochism. Harper is touring the Antarctic, courtesy of Valium Airlines. And everyone else? They’re developing an addiction for being alive. They all want more life. As Tony Kushner himself puts it, the world only spins forward.

ANGELS IN AMERICA is Shane’s parting shot of humour, beauty, pain and love. It’s an epic celebration, pitched from a horizon of hopefulness. We dare you not to be uplifted. In this, his wings are fully extended.

Theatre ,

America Rediscovered

Review by James Wenley 25th Mar 2014

It is very subtle, and depending where you are sitting, invisible. Etched onto the stage floor is one of the most famous sentences from world history: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…” 

For his final offering as Artistic Director of Silo, Shane Bosher has given the people of Auckland Tony Kushner’s two-parter Angels in America. A play eight years older than the company Bosher has led for the last thirteen years, performed in a venue (next door to his old stomping ground) that didn’t exist when he first started, Bosher has been preparing the way for some time. [More]


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A powerful, unequivocal and naked honesty

Review by Frances Edmond 24th Mar 2014

“Selfish and greedy and loveless and blind. Reagan’s children. You’re scared… Everybody is in the land of the free,” says Louis in Tony Kushner’s astonishing Pulitzer prize-winning play, Angels in America. Subtitled “a gay fantasia on national themes”, it’s passionate, fiercely intelligent, apocalyptic, unflinching in its critique of American culture in the heartless Reagan years when the AIDS crisis first traumatised the gay community; when any semblance of political integrity and morality was thrust aside by the glorification of a greedy, self-serving expediency; and the first glimmerings of climate change were permeating public consciousness. 

Attitudes towards homosexuality may have mellowed and AIDS become a more manageable disease, but Kushner’s portrayal of human frailty wrestling with the nature of love, of truth and of freedom is undimmed by the passage of time.  [More]


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Dazzling mix of wit, tenderness

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 24th Mar 2014

Tony Kushner’s vast portrait of Reagan’s America revealed through the prism of Aids is filled with dazzling spectacle, razor-sharp humour and moments of intimate human tenderness.

The play drives home the unspeakable horror of young men cut down in their prime by an inexplicable disease, but Kushner’s script is so expansive it gives a thoroughly contemporary twist to the most ancient truth of theatre – that in confronting extreme tragedy we find the most compelling vision of our humanity.

It also provides an appropriately bold canvas for Shane Bosher’s swansong as artistic director of Silo Theatre. His direction brings imaginative flair to the play’s intoxicating mix of hallucination and reality while Rachael Walker’s minimalist set allows for great clarity in the simultaneous staging of action taking place in different locations. [More]


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Fascinating, stimulating, invigorating

Review by Johnny Givins 23rd Mar 2014

Shane Bosher’s farewell after 13 years leading Silo theatre is an epic opus. Some have called Angels in America one of the most important pieces of theatre to come out of the late 20th century. The two-part play embodies all the hallmarks that have driven Silo Theatre to become a cutting edge theatre company: great ensemble acting, creative daring, and a “fascination with gender, sexuality and emotional transformation”. 

Angels in America, ‘A Gay Fantasia on National themes’, is a multi-award winning drama, TV miniseries, movie and an opera.  There are two parts. The first premiered in 1991 and is called Millennium Approaches.  The second part –  Perestroika – premiered in 1992. Silo theatre is producing both parts this season.  Part two opens next Saturday.  It is a herculean task to produce over 7 hours of high quality theatre.

Bosher has masterminded a huge journey for his cast and support crew.  The dramatic demands as well as the technical requirements are extraordinary.  With only a week to get the production mounted in the proscenium arch layout of Q’s Rangatira theatre, they made a brave decision to cancel the preview performance on Friday night.  The opening night then became the first real ‘run’ of this production.  As the season progresses I am sure the journey will mature as the production and actors settle into both the emotional content and size of the theatre.  Still on opening night it was a performance worth its accolades.

Angels in America is the story of personal journeys.  It is anchored in the belief that we are all on an individual journey but rooted in the soil of our genealogical past. We can say we are ‘free’ and ‘liberated’ to make our own choices, but the tentacles of our heritage are a constant factor in our ability to take action. Life is a struggle in the real world but also traumatic in our internal, emotional and creative worlds. This production explores all these facets as we travel with a fascinating group of characters.

Angels in America may also be seen as a brutal tale of life in the capitalistic society of mid 1980s Ronald Regan era. Power and success are the winners, social policies are undercut as the rich get richer and the others just don’t feature.  Tony Kushner deals with the issues of the time: AIDS, homosexuality, drug addiction, religion, and the nature of both personal and political power.  He also deals with the essential humanity of love, compassion and hope with a dramatic mix of betrayal, secrets and fantasy.

Kushner was a devotee of Brechtian theatre: “theatricality should be transparent”.  Bosher’s production fulfils Kushner’s ‘Play writer’s notes’ to an extraordinary degree.  The set is a simple flat stage and dominated by an immense black wall.  There are no black-outs between scenes, the settings are pared down to their absolute minimum, the actors play multiple parts, and move the set elements to create the new spaces.  The production becomes an ‘actor-driven event’. 

This technique does undermine the emotional intensity as actors fulfil emotionally cathartic scenes then drop out of character and change the set. However it does allow the audience to be active in the creation of the theatrical event and as the power of the story develops, our belief and participation is amplified. The dream world of the imagination is perhaps the most vivid part of this production but it is in the ‘reality’ scenes that the audience make their imaginations work to create the world on stage.

What a wonderful company of actors Bosher has assembled to create this ensemble cast.  All the cast have had great success in iconic screen productions of recent times, such as Underbelly, Blue Rose, Top of the Lake, Harry and No 2 as well as such theatrical gems as 360.

As Prior Walter, a gay man with AIDS, Gareth Reeves is totally convincing.  He is dramatically powerful and realistic as he struggles with the illness, his Jewish boyfriend Louis Ironson (Dan Musgrove) and the hallucination-inducing effect of the drugs he is taking.  Prior’s visions are wonderful theatrical events.

Louis is more Jewish than a sting of neurotic Woody Allens.  He just can’t cope with his partner’s disease; can’t watch the man he loves decay and suffer.  Troubled with a range of guilt complexes, he talks incessantly and abandons his partner.  As the season develops Musgrove may be able to relax and explore the sexual gay spirit, and the vulnerability and emotional intensity gripping Louis. He has huge monologues expressing his inner struggle. He has deep and real love for Prior, and the sense of overwhelm washes over him.  He is a man who cannot ‘see’ (I’m surprised that he doesn’t have glasses).  

Harper Pitt (Chelsie Preston Crayford) is a neurotic Mormon housewife with Valium-induced hallucinations who discovers her husband is gay. Crayford is superb; totally believable as she moves from pathetic to heroic, from crumbling reality to powerful fantasy.  She has found the emotional intensity needed for this tragic struggle. She also gets some great laughs.

Her husband Joe Pitt (Matt Minto) is a deeply closeted homosexual who has tried to make himself ‘normal’ as the clerk at the US Court of Appeals.  Dashingly handsome in his three piece suit, like a Ken doll, his internal struggle is palpable and nicely focussed.  His repression is amplified by his close relationship with the middle-aged lawyer Roy Cohn, who is himself a closet gay.

One of the historically real characters in Angels in America, Roy Cohn is played with great verve and passion by Stephen Lovatt. A lawyer who worked with the anti-communist crusader McCarthy in the 50s, Cohn amasses information, bribes and feeds corruption to get results.  He is an 80s version of the powerbroker we see in such shows as the HBO series House of Cards. Lovatt has Cohn’s energy, charm and obsessive quality and will develop the emotional bully more fully as the season progresses.   This is a man with balls: evil, corrupt, passionate, while being sexually in the closet and able to live with the consequences.  He is a complex and dramatic man and as Cohn struggles with his AIDS diagnosis, Lovatt takes us on his journey.

Both Minto and Lovatt have great fun with Pryor Walter’s ancestors from the Middle Ages and Restoration periods.  They have excellent theatrical entrances and exits, and are a comic delight as they prepare the way for … something really important!

Belize (Jarod Rawiri) is a former drag queen, ex-lover of Pryor and his best friend.  Rawiri brings a freshness and a cynicism to Belize which is mature and thoughtful.  Believably gay, he embodies the love and caring so needed by Prior and Louis, but he is a realist as he lives through these dark days of AIDS.  He feels like a man with answers but just has to wait for his time.  Maybe this will develop in Angels in America Part 2.

Jarod Rawiri also plays Mr Lies, Harper Pitt’s fantasy travel agent.  He is camp and precise; sexy but with limitations (there are rules even in fantasies).  He is a delight in a long mauve fur coat.

Alison Bruce has a remarkable night on stage.  She plays Rabbi Isidor Chemelwitz; Henry, Roy Cohn’s doctor; Hannah Pitt, Joe Pitt’s Mormon mother from Utah, and finally Ethel Rosenberg’s ghost (who was executed and blames Cohn).  Each one is a gem, clearly defined and emotionally unique.  I would have liked more volume from the Rabbi but I am sure this will happen as Bruce takes charge of the large Q theatre.

The beautiful Mia Blake becomes Pryor’s Catholic Irish nurse, Sister Ella Chapter, Joe’s mother’s Utah real estate agent, the homeless woman in South Bronx and finally – with a Spielberg style entrance – The Angel.

I expect that most of these characters will appear in the on-going journey of Angels in America Part 2 – Perestroika which opens next Saturday.  There will be performances of both parts in sequence at the weekend and on different nights during this season. It is massive task for the Silo Company and has never been done this way in NZ before this season. 

When it premiered many of Angels in America created outrage, demonstrations outside theatres, cuts to theatre funding and persecution of the artistic creators.  Perhaps those days have gone and the themes are not as powerful for today’s audience.  However the human concerns with uncertainty, caring, obligation, love and power are just as relevant today. 

The audience have to work to become involved with this fascinating production. It is stimulating and invigorating and fulfils all the hallmarks of great theatre.  Well done Shane Bosher.  Looking forward to Part 2 next week.


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