Angels in America Summary

Angels in America Summary

The first act of the first part is entitled Bad New and it opens with a Rabbi named Isador Chemelwitz alone on the stage with a coffin where the body of Sarah Ironson inside. Sarah was a member of an influential Jewish family who came to America hoping to build a better life for her family. The Rabbi sadly notes how soon there will no longer be people like Sarah because the world is changing.

The scene then focuses on Joe Pitt who is waiting in Roy Cohn’s office. Roy is talking on the phone, swearing from time to time and Joe advises him to not take the Lord’s name in vain, revealing that he is a Mormon. Roy then offers Joe a job in the Justice Department but Joe tells him that he will like to talk with his wife first.

Meanwhile, Joe’s wife, Harper, is sitting alone in her apartment and talks to herself and with Mr. Lies, a hallucination Harper has. They talk about the ozone layer and how the fact that disappears affects her marriage with her husband.

When Joe arrives, the hallucination disappears and Joe asks Harper if she would like to move to Washington. Harper tries to convince him to not take the job, invoking cheap excuses. Joe realizes that something is wrong with Harper and so he asks her how many pills she had taken in that day. Harper admits that she had taken a few so Joe tries to calm her down and convince her that things will become better between them.

Meanwhile, Sarah’s grandson, Louis Ironson and his lover Prior Walter sit outside the funeral home. Prior tells Louis that he has AIDS and Louis starts to panic. Louis leaves but promises to return. In another scene, Louis asks Rabbi Chemelwitz what the Bible says about abandoning a loved one in a time of need but the Rabbi has no answer to this question.

A week later, Joe and Louis meet in the courthouse where they both work. Louis is crying so Joe tries to comfort him. Louis complains about the lawyers who saw him crying and during the conversation with Joe makes a reference towards gay people. Joe replies that he isn’t gay and Louis leaved the bathroom after he kisses Joe on the cheek.

In the next scene, a dream that Prior has is described. In that dream, Prior dresses in drag to try and cheer himself up when a woman appears. That woman is Harper who is surprised to see Prior in her hallucination. Prior tries to convince her that she is actually in his dream when Harper notices how sick Prior looks. Prior tells Harper that her husband is gay and while she tries to deny it, she subconsciously admits the fact. After Harper disappears, Prior hears a voice calling him and after that, feathers start to fall from the sky.

The next scene moves to the two couples placed at opposite sides of the stage: Harper and Joe on one side and Louis and Prior on the other side. Louis and Prior discuss about the progress of Prior’s AIDS who is getting worst and Louis asks Prior if he would hate him if he would walk out in him. Prior responds by telling Louis that he would hate him forever for abandoning him.

Roy is visiting his doctor Henry who tells him that he has symptoms of AIDS. The doctor avoids using the word ‘’gay’’ knowing that it will insult Roy who tells the doctor that labels like ‘’gay’’ and ‘’AIDS’’ mean that a man has no real power and insists that his disease be called liver cancer. Henry urges Roy to use his influence to be included in a trial for a new AIDS drug.

The second act is entitled In Vitro and it opens with Prior and Louis in the middle of the night. Suddenly, Prior wakes up in pain and cries for Louis to wake up. When Prior refuses to go to the hospital but Louis calls for an ambulance either way.

Meanwhile, Joe comes home to find Harper in a distressed state. Harper tells Joe that she is not sure that they are going to have a baby and then urges Joe to leave for Washington without her telling him that she is going to leave him.

Meanwhile, Louis talks with one of Prior’s nurse called Emily who tries to cheer him up. Sadden by the state in which Prior is, Louis decides to take a walk in the park to clear his head. Louis ends up in the Central Park in a region known for being a place where men meet up to have sex. There, Louis meets the Ramble who looks just like Prior. Louis asks the Rambler to punish him and the two start having sexual intercourse. Even though the condom breaks, Louis urges the man to continue, telling him that he doesn’t care if he gets infected or not. The man however stops and leaves.

After the discussion Joe had with Harper, he goes to a bar where he meets with Roy. Joe tells Roy about Harper’s addiction and Roy urges him to accept the job offer in Washington assuring him that he will mentor him. Roy also tells Joe that he is dying of cancer, hiding the fact that he has AIDS.

In his hospital room, Prior wakes up alone. He is visited by Belize, a former lover. Prior tells Belize that he has been hearing voices but asks Belize not to tell anyone about it. After Belize leaves, Prior starts to hear the voices again telling him that he must prepare to perform a great work.

The next scene presents Joe, Roy and Martin Heller, a friend of Roy’s, at a restaurant eating dinner. Both Roy and Martin try to persuade Joe to accept their job offer, telling him that from that position, Joe will be able to help them by disbarring one of Roy’s political opponents. Joe refuses to do something unethical and Roy starts to yell at him but is unable to convince him.

In the next scene, Joe and Louis meet in front of the courthouse where they both work. Joe tells Louis about his fears and his desire for freedom. Joe decides not to go to work that day and accepts Louis’s proposal to spend the day with him.

Later that night, Joe returns home drunk and he decides to call his mother from a pay phone. Joe tells her that he is homosexual but his mother gets angrier with him, telling Joe that drinking is a sin and that he should go home.

When Joe arrives home, he has an argument with Harper. Joe tells her that he still loves her and that he will never abandon her but he also confesses that he knew something was different with him even before he married her. Harper insists that he goes to Washington and leave her alone. Harper realizes that the man who terrifies her during the times when she is hallucinating is her husband so she calls for Mr. Lies and they both disappear.

Meanwhile, Prior and Louis have an argument in Prior’s hospital room. The argument ends when Prior tells Louis to leave after Louis tells his lover that he wants to move out.

The next scene presents Hannah Pitt who discusses with Sister Ella about selling her house and moving to New York because she admits that Salt Lake has worn her out so she plans to take her chances in New York.

The third act is subtitled Not yet-conscious, Forward Dawning and the first scene takes place in Prior’s hospital room. He is awakened by a man who claims to be one of his ancestors. The ghost tells Prior that he lived during the 13th century in British, was a squire and died during the Black Death. Then another ancestor appears and the second ghost claims that he died during the plague in the 17th century. Both ghost claim that they have been sent to prepare the way for the unseen messenger before starting to chant in English and Hebrew.

The next scene opens with Louis and Belize talking about politics in a coffee shop. They start to argue about race and religion but their conversation soon starts to turn to Prior. Louis asks Belize to tell Prior that he still loves him but Belize tells him that he can’t help him anymore. Belize leaves just as it starts snowing.

Meanwhile, Prior is talking with his nurse about the progress of his illness. Suddenly, Prior hears Emily talk in Hebrew and a book appears. Emily claims not seeing the things described by Prior so he flees terrified.

Scene four takes place in New York with Hannah. She tries to find her way to the Mormon Visitor’s Center but is unsuccessful. In the end, a homeless woman is able to tell her where to go.

The next scene reveals Joe’s refusal to go to Washington and Roy’s angry outburst. Joe continues to claim that he will not do something that goes against his ethics and leaves after Roy tells him about his involvement in the execution of Ethel Rosenberg. As soon as Joe leaves, pain takes over Roy and he falls on the ground. The ghost of Ethel Rosenberg appears and helps Roy by calling an ambulance.

Scene 6 takes place in Prior apartment where he is once more visited by the ghost of his ancestors. The ghosts convince him to dance but disappear suddenly when an Angel appears and calls Prior a prophet. The angel tells Prior that the great work will begin. At first, Prior is scared but then finds himself sexually aroused by the presence of the Angel.

During this time, Joe and Louis meet in a park where they kiss. Louis asks Joe to go home with him and after a few moments, Joe agrees to go with him. The scene between Louis and Joe marks the end of the first part of the play entitled Millennium Approaches.

The second part of the play is entitled Perestroika and it opens with a new character. Aleksii Antedilluvianovich Prelapsarianov, who talks to a crowd and asks them a series of rhetorical questions. The scene then moves to Prior, lying on the floor before the Angel who he tells to go away.

In Louis’s apartment, Joe tries to resist Louis’s sexual proposals but he gives in to his desires and decides to stay.

Meanwhile, Harper is hallucinating that she in Antarctica with Mr. Lies and that she carries a tree. A man enters with only a sheet on him and tells her that he is going on an adventure but that she can’t come. The man is Joe and after he disappears, Harper realizes that she is in New York and that she is dragging a tree from an arboretum. The scene ends when a police car pulls over and Harper surrenders. The police calls Joe’s apartment and Hannah is the one who answers the phone. She assures that she will go to the police station before hanging up.

Meanwhile, Belize talks with Prior on the phone while Belize is working in the hospital. Prior tells Belize about his dream and asks him to go to his house but before Belize leaves the hospital, Henry gives him Roy’s chart and he finds that Roy has AIDS. Belize goes to take care of Roy but Roy is rude and Belize threats him that he will leave. Roy asks him to stay and moved by Roy’s condition, Belize tells him not to accept any experimental drugs or radiation as it will only make him feel worse. Before Belize can exit the room, Roy asks him if he will die soon and Belize confirms his fears.

Meanwhile, Hannah takes care of Harper while Louis and Joe start a relationship. During a day spent together, Joe tries to make Louis feel less guilty about him leaving Prior but is unsuccessful. Suddenly, Harper appears before him and tells him that he can’t help Louis.

The second Act in entitled The Epistle and it opens with the funeral of one of Prior’s friends. Prior is dressed strangely and tells Belize that the Angel gave him a book when he visited him. The Angel revealed the hiding place of the book, under the kitchen tiles. After he finds the book, he and the Angel have sexual intercourse which fuels creation. The Angel tells Prior that Heaven was affected by the humanity’s migration instinct. As a result, God abandoned his creation and thus in order to make God return, the Angels tried to stop the humans from moving from one place to another. After hearing what the Angel had to stay, Prior rejects the prophecy by the Angel tells him that he has nowhere to hide before disappearing.

After Belize hears the story, he tries to convince Prior that maybe the Angel was just a hallucination. Prior admits that the Angel may be a result of his illness but at the same time that maybe she was real.

Meanwhile, Roy continues to be admitted into a hospital while he continues to have hallucinations about Ethel. Belize continues to take care of him and notices the stash of drugs Roy has. After persuading him, Roy gives Belize a bottle of AZT, an experimental AIDS drugs.

The next scene presents Hannah and Prior who are together at the Mormon Visitor’s Center. A show starts presenting a Mormon family who moves to another part of the country. The father is played by Joe and the mother by Harper. The Louis appears and argues with Joe about his work ethics. Prior thinks that that he is hallucinating but Hannah tells him that Louis appears in the show every time she goes there. On stage, Louis and Joe continue to argue until the curtain falls. After the show, Hannah and Prior try to find he actors that played on stage but realize that they imagined everything. The mother in the scene comes to life and Harper and her go out on a walk, talking about the state of the world.

Meanwhile, Louis and Prior sit on the beach together. Joe confesses his love for Louis but he expresses his which to see Prior again. Louis leaves and calls Prior asking to see him.

Scene 4 takes place in Roy’s hospital room where Roy and Belize are talking. Roy’s health continues to decrease to the point where he is hallucinating about Heaven. Scared, Belize leaves Roy alone to his hallucinations.

Act four is entitled John Brown’s Body and the first scene takes place in Roy’s hospital room where he is visited by Joe. Joe tells Roy that he now lives with a man and Roy gets angry, telling him to never think about men again and to return to his wife before telling him to leave. After Joe leaves, the ghost of Ethel appears once more.

Meanwhile, Louis meets with Prior in the park. Louis wants to be with Prior again but Prior refuses, telling him to come before him only when he will have visible proof of the pain he claims to feel.

In scene 2, Prior and Belize spy on Joe. Prior tells Joe that he looks just like the dummy in the show he saw at the Mormon Visitor’s Center and then insults him. Joe recognizes Belize and corners him but he leaves them alone when Prior pretends to be a mental patient.

After the incident, Belize meets with Louis and tells him that he is concerned about Prior’s health and about the hallucinations he has. Louis tells Belize that he stopped seeing Joe but Belize doesn’t believe him. Instead, Belize tells him that Joe is a close friend with Roy which infuriates Louis because he sees Roy as being pure evil. Belize claims that Louis is wrong and that he only loves ideals and even compares Roy with the state America was in.

In the next scene, Joe visits his mother at the Mormon Visitor’s Center where he is also looking for Harper who is nowhere to be found. Prior comes as well and talks with Joe’s mother claiming that he wants to warn Joe about Louis. Prior collapses because of his illness and asks Hannah to take him to the hospital.

Meanwhile, Joe finds Harper barely dressed and wet from rain. Joe tells her that he wants to return to her despite seeing her current state.

Prior returns to the hospital with Hannah. Knowing that she is a religious person, Prior asks her weather any prophet refused to accept a mission received from an Angel. Felling the Angel’s approach, Prior asks Hannah to remain with him.

Meanwhile, Joe kept his promise and returned to Harper. Despite this, he doesn’t feel comfortable having sexual relationships with her and Harper knows that he fantasizes about other men. Joe leaves telling her that he needs to clear his head.

Joe goes to Louis’s apartment where Louis criticizes him for the way he handled some cases which involved homosexuals. Louis accuses Joe of sleeping with Roy and Joe gets angry to the point where he starts beating Louis. Ashamed of what he had done, Joe leaves Louis’s apartment.

Scene 9 describes Roy’s death. Before he dies, he is visited by Ethel’s ghost who tells him that he was disbarred. Roy tricks Ethel into singing him a song before dying.

The fifth act begins with a scene that takes place in Prior’s hospital room where the Angel appears once more. The Angel is seen by Hannah who is in the room and Hannah tells Prior that he must wrestle with the Angel. A ladder comes from Heaven and Prior starts to climb the ladder while Hannah remains in the room.

In Heaven, Prior sees Harper who thinks that she must have overdosed. Harper disappears and then the Angel appears. In Heaven, Prior is brought before a Council composed by seven Angels. They talk about the nuclear accident that will happen at Chernobyl but their conversation is interrupted by Prior giving back the Book and saying that it is in human’s nature to move from one place to another. Prior leaves but not before asking to be blessed with more life.

In Heaven, Prior meets with Rabbi Isador Chemelwitz and Louis’s grandmother playing cards. The rabbi makes a ladder appear and Prior descends on earth after Sarah asks him to tell Louis that she forgave him.

Prior wakes up in his hospital room with Hannah. Louis and Belize come and they bring him the pills they had taken from Roy after his death. Louis expresses his wish to go back to Prior but Prior rejects him.

Meanwhile, Harper leaves Joe one more time, calming that she will never return to him again. She begins a new life, marked by a hallucination similar to the one she had in the beginning of the play. Harper sees once more the ozone layer but this time, the layer is whole again.

The play ends with an epilogue five years later. Then, Prior, Louis, Belize and Hannah discuss the recent events of the fall of the Wall of Berlin. Prior speaks directly to the audience telling them that he will continue to struggle to live and that he hopes he will be able to see the new Millennium.

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