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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Boyd’

Tony Kushner writes great plays with dreadful titles. The full title of this one is The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism & Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures. He wrote one of the greatest plays of the second half of the 20th century, the two-part six-hour Angels in America, both parts first seen together here in 1993 and returning to the NT in 2017. He hasn’t produced much original work since, none of it anywhere near a match for AiA. It’s been a long time since I saw a big, meaty play and I found this a real theatrical feast.

Whereas AiA was epic, iHo is a family saga, though it seems like a lot more once you’ve taken it all in. Gus Marcantonio is an Italian American longshoreman who made his name as a union man. His eldest son Pill is gay, in a long-term relationship but with an addiction to paying for sex, latterly with money borrowed from his sister Empty, four years his junior. Empty has left her husband Adam and is in a lesbian relationship with Maeve, who is pregnant with a child from sperm donated by Empty’s younger brother V, who is married with two young children. V is ten years younger, his mother died giving birth to him, and he’s the only one of Gus’ children who hasn’t followed his politics or indeed career. Keeping up?

They meet at the family brownstone in Brooklyn because Gus thinks he’s getting Alzheimer’s so he wants to sell the house, share out the proceeds and die, a year on from an earlier attempted suicide. His sister Clio is currently in residence. She used to be a nun, before becoming involved in dubious left-wing militant groups like Shining Path. Empty’s ex Adam is also in residence. All sorts of family history, some surprises and more than one cupboard full of skeletons emerge in this dense, complex and dramatically rich concoction. It becomes a struggle to keep up when the dialogue overlaps, which is often. This adds to the realism, but is pushed a bit two far in the second section. 

Tom Piper has designed an austere three-story revolving house, though most of the action takes place in a ground floor living room occupied by little more than a couple of tables and some chairs. There’s not much to distract you from the unfolding story. It would be invidious to single out performances from such a terrific ensemble. Quite how they keep it all together at times is beyond me; it must be a real challenge to speak your lines in a conversation with another character whilst there are several other conversations going on – it was hard enough listening.

I left the theatre deeply satisfied, full to the brim but not bloated after an excellent theatrical meal. We get so few of these really meaty plays in the Miller / O’Neill / Tennessee Williams mould these days. Now I can’t wait for the AiA revival next year.

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