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Theatre department puts on 'taboo' play

By Billy Rafael
On November 12, 2012

The Miami University department of theatre is tackling controversial issues with its upcoming production of Angels in America, Part 1: Millennium Approaches. Set in 1985 in the midst of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the show weaves together a variety of storylines between a husband and wife, Joe and Harper; and a gay couple, Prior and Louis, while dealing with issues of race, religion, politics, sexual orientation and more.

"The plot is hard to condense into a few sentences because it has so many different elements," according to senior Sheldon White, who plays several roles in the show.

"It takes place in a time when HIV and AIDS is prevalent and misunderstood. Many thought the disease was airborne, so they quarantined people who were infected," White said.

White plays Belize, a former drag queen that, while not HIV positive himself, is not afraid to go into the same room as someone who is infected. He also plays the role of Mr. Lies, an imaginary friend to Harper.

"The play is gigantic and has taken a lot of work to make it cohesive," according to senior Brendan Monte, who also plays several roles. "It's written to have all this spectacle in it, being light-hearted and funny at parts, but still having a serious tone," Monte said. "As a cast we had to collectively wrap our minds around all this and then figure out how to convey it to the audience."

Monte's main character, Roy Cohn, is an upper class New York City lawyer based off the real lawyer from the Rosenberg trial in which two accused communists were convicted and executed by electrocution.

"Roy is a complete one-eighty as to who I am in reality, and he has these ulterior motives to do anything that needs to be done to get what he wants," Monte said. "Over the course of the play my character finds out first that he has AIDS and then that they are trying to disbar him. He knows that his façade of power is still there but inside he's deteriorating, and so he takes Joe under his wing as a protégé."

White feels that the production has a lot going for it, and that audiences will be thoroughly entertained.

"The cast is incredibly talented, the scenery is extremely elaborate and there are some really cool special effects," White said. "That's all on top of an engaging story line."

Angels in America, Part 1: Millennium Approaches runs 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday. All performances will take place in the Gates-Abegglen Theatre located in the Center for Performing Arts. Tickets are $6 for students and $9 for adults and can be purchased from the Shriver Box Office.

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