Things you can do for fifty cents an hour: Park your car (but probably not downtown). Play one video game (and then wait a while). See a double-bill at the Decarie One-Dollar Cinema. And now - thanks to the National Theatre School's graduating class - see a Pulitzer Prize winning play at the Monument National. Listen, it's going to rain all week. And you've probably already heard a band, or seen a movie. Until April 30th, dry off at the NTS' public performance of Perestroika. It may prove to be the most economical thing you do all year.
Perestroika is the second half of Tony Kushner's play, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia On National Themes. Angels is a brilliant play - it's about being gay in the 90s, AIDS, politics, religion, love, loyalty, sex, death and the apocalypse. It's about everything.
The NTS has mounted Perestroika as the final production for its graduating class. In every way - the sets, the special effects, the emotions - this play is a huge challenge. In his notes, Kushner writes that "the magic . . . should be thoroughly amazing." There is also a scene where a man puts his hand down another man's pants, then tastes his hand. However, with technical and acting chutzpa, the school (with director, David Storch) manages to "pull off" Perestroika. The set is gorgeous, the angel Fabulous and the acting - despite some awkward "New York accents" - is all quite strong.
If it's real New York accents you want, rent the recent Angels in America HBO mini-series, starring Al Pacino and Meryl Streep. The movie version really is great (indeed, you may want to rent Part 1 before going to see Perestroika), but please beware! Angels was written to be, and can succeed brilliantly as, a live stage production. It saddens me that more and more people will just "see the movie" instead. In fact, my quibble with the NTS production is that its designers and cast seem to have "seen the movie" too. The angel speaks with a slight British twang (as does Emma Thompson in the movie), and the characters all look and dress like their Hollywood counterparts. I often felt like I was watching a re-enactment of the movie and not an original interpretation of Kushner's script.
However, quibbles aside, allow me to plan your weekend for you: First, go to your local video store and rent Part One of Angels in America. But then: go see Part 2 live! This NTS production lives in the movie's shadow, but has the advantage of being full of energy and emotional risk. And it really is a very good deal.
Perestroika, Part 2 of Angels in America, runs at the Monument National until April 30th. Call 514-871-2224 for tickets.