American redux: ‘Angels in America’ at Foothill (Review)

Perez brings such visceral intensity and electric physicality that you’ll be entirely wowed.

Roy Cohn (Alex Perez) is a wheeler-dealer, observed by Joe Pitt (Dan Martin)
In Review

Angels in America: Millennium Approaches

3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars - 'Sweet Stuff'
Lohman Theatre, Foothill College
Los Altos Hills
Written by Tony Kushner
foothill.edu/theatre/current.php
Review by

Foothill’s College’s production of Angels in America is freaking amazing.

Lest you think you can take a pass on this one – perhaps under the misguided notion that it’s an arguably overdone show at a small community college, let me quickly disabuse you. Theatre at Foothill isn’t a rerun of those dreary undergraduate productions you sat through that were more animated by your then-abundant energy and hots for your seat mate than the production. That’s not Foothill. Theatre at Foothill is some of the best and certainly most reasonably priced theatre on the peninsula.

Second – even if you’re still recovering from having seen too many productions of Angels in decades past, this Foothill production is the one you should go back to, in part because of Alex Perez’ killer performance as Roy Cohn, the not-homosexual, Jewish Republican who brags about being able to get Nancy Reagan on the phone even as he dies of “liver cancer.”

Roy Cohn (Alex Perez) is a wheeler-dealer, observed by Joe Pitt (Dan Martin)
Roy Cohn (Alex Perez) is a wheeler-dealer, observed by Joe Pitt (Dan Martin)

Perez’s performance is particularly important because he reanimated a character whose social significance declined almost immediately after his death. The name “Roy Cohn” has even less relevance for undergrads today than members of LBJ’s presidential cabinet – a fact that shows what old farts some of us have become. However, Perez brings such visceral intensity and electric physicality that you’ll be entirely wowed. The idea that Perez must have been having a blast with this one  that it won’t hit you until the next morning. Phew! Great stuff.

However, the evening wasn’t all about Perez. Danny Martin as Joe Pitt, Clinton Williams as Louis Ironside, and Tim Garcia as Prior Walter, Louis’ partner were pitch perfect. Curiously, this production, Pitt and Louis Ironsides, were equally understated, each each focused on going the distance to avoid owning themselves, which gave an emotional clarity to Garcia’s Prior Walter I don’t remember from other productions.

Angels in America Review
Roy Cohn (Alex Perez) declares he can’t be broken

Sophia Naylor’s Harper Pitt fills a huge emotional center of the play as the crazy lady, the fool, the person you trust for at least an allegorical truth of any particular moment. This trust was won throughout the course of the performance as her first moments on stage were confusing – something that might be due to the script as much as her performance. Even if you’ve seen the show a gajillion times before, the openings bits about blue haloes and photosynthesis, combined with the extraterrestrial travel agent,(Davied Morales) make you wonder where this thing is doing. That lack of direction disappeared after those first few minutes.

Theatre at Foothill is some of the best and certainly most reasonably priced theatre on the peninsula

I suspect that Kushner genuinely liked the character of Hannah Pitt, mother to Joe, capably played here by Carla Befera. Befera’s voice is tone-perfect, transforming alien into Everymom, giving her the intelligence and wit that Kushner intended.

Befera and Naylor both popped in and out in various other roles, including Cohn’s doctor and Isidor Chemelwitz (Befera), Martin (Naylor), and others.

Davied Morales brought us a less flamboyant Belize, drag queen & nurse, than often appears. This gave his remarks a quiet depth, particularly evident in the intense Act III, Scene 2 with Louis.

Angels in America runs through June 10th. Check out the web site because they are also doing staged readings of Angels in America – Part Two: Perestroika.

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Cy Ashley Webb
Cy spent the ‘80’s as a bench scientist, the tech boom doing intellectual property law, and the first decade of the millennium, aspiring to be the world’s oldest grad student at Stanford where she is interested in political martyrdom. Presently, she enjoys writing for Stark Insider and the SF Examiner, hanging out at Palo Alto Children's Theatre, and participating in various political activities. Democracy is not a spectator sport! Cy is a SFBATCC member.