At the pit of his affliction with AIDS, Prior wrestles with his ancestral ghosts, who torment and invite him to dance. Louis, a neurotic, gay Jew and Prior's estranged lover, appears and waltzes him away into an impassioned embrace. The frank display of affection and despair between the two men elicited giggles from the audience during a preview of Tony Kushner's Angels in America: Millennium Approaches at the Nepali Tourism Board last Wednesday.
"The audience will likely be shocked," says director Deborah Merola, who has staged several productions in Kathmandu. "But the play is not trying to convince people of a lifestyle. It's a play about loss, recovery, healing. It's a universal play."
After Louis learns of Prior's illness, he cowers and abandons him. Meanwhile, Roy Cohn, a closeted gay lawyer also diagnosed with AIDS, offers a promotion to Joe Pitt, a devout Mormon and Republican law clerk. Soon after, Joe's pill-popping wife, Harper, confronts him and his repressed homosexuality. The ensuing conversations produce a raw depiction of the human relationship.
Tangents into the supernatural enrich the epic drama as well as biblical allusions. In one scene, Harper, played by Samuna KC, finds herself in Antarctica with her imaginary companion, making snow angels, and in others, apparitions and angels descend on Prior and Roy, symbolising their slow and eventual decline.
Political overtones suggest the faded hopes of American exceptionalism and the collateral scapegoating of minorities, an import relevant to the times. At the moment, the evolving LGBT rights movement in Nepal has been muddled and overshadowed by the larger political situation.
During a Q&A session, a spectator expressed concerns that the play revealed nothing positive about homosexuality and that all he saw was its negative portrayal namely the travails induced by AIDS and reactionary groups.
Brent Rose, who plays Prior, answered: "The point of the play is to show how similar homosexual relationships are to that of heterosexual people. It's not about making them the other or about them being fabulous or 'look how it's great to be gay!' It's about being human. These characters represent Americans, and they represent human beings."
Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, 3 - 8 June, 5:30pm at the Nepali Tourism Board. Mature Content. Advanced Reservations: [email protected]