WINGED VICTORY

The production of Millennium is superior to either the chaotic production in Los Angeles or the overproduced spectacle of Broadway. Michael Mayer has directed it here with such imagination and fluidity that it literally glides by like a whirl on the ballroom floor. The sets, costumes and lighting, while still spectacular, are stunningly simple. Especially memorable is the beautiful realization of the scene in the Arctic, achieved with a billowing white silk ground cloth.

As for the cast members, they are in many respects superior to their New York predecessors. In the grotesque role of Roy Cohn, Jonathan Hadary is so painfully right that his leathery face and rasping voice will be burned into your memory as emblems of human vitriol.

As his prot‚g‚, Rick Holmes is handsome, sensitive and innocent in his agonizing struggle with his sexuality. Sarah Underwood is strong, vulnerable and pathetic as his tortured wife Harper, and she delivers some of the most beautiful lines in the piece with shimmering resonance.

Carolyn Swift is appropriately awesome as the Angel, although she is sometimes hard to understand in her relentless rages, perhaps partly because of overamplification. Reg Flowers is a fabulous Belize, funny and deep, strong and sympathetic.

Pamela Burrell excels in a variety of roles, memorable as the rabbi, Ethel Rosenberg and especially as Joe's Mormon mother.

Peter Birkenhead is extremely funny as Louis, and, as the plays deepen, he plumbs the tragic depths, as well. Robert Sella created the part of Prior at the Juilliard School, long before the play's Broadway production, but relinquished the role to the Tony Award-winning Stephen Spinella. Sella is himself quite marvelous as Prior, somewhat more sturdy than the emaciated Spinella, but inwardly rich and infinitely moving.

The production of Perestroika is completely redesigned, but not always to its advantage. The campy marquee featuring A Star Is Born is somewhat too explicit as a universal vision of heaven.

The worst aspect of the physical production is the clumsy flying of the Angel. In the Los Angeles production, she flew in horizontally from upstage, hovering over Prior's bed with celestial authority. Here, as on Broadway, she is plunked down vertically, dangling on visible wires, looking more appropriate to the top of a Christmas tree than as a celestial messenger.

Kushner's vision of America is a peculiar one, but so was that of Tennessee Williams. The great artist sees beyond the world of rationality. Kushner is such an artist. Much of what he says is profound. Some of it is beautifully expressed. Most of it is funny. (He has great fun sticking it to the Republicans, religions and closeted queers.) And all of it is strikingly original. Stand and cheer a unique new voice in the American theatre.

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