By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
Old-time stars crowded into the Chiller Theatre festival at the Parsippany Hilton—you heard me—where I wangled free time with my fave cult actors, pushing past the masses lined up to buy autographs. Exes Patty Duke and John Astin were big draws, stationed at diagonal ends of the main room. Dancer-turned-action-star Sandahl Bergman was there, too, reminding me that she appeared in the immortal Xanadu ("I'm the first muse that comes out of the wall"). Dallas's Patrick Duffy assured me he has the same body as the one in the shirtless photos he was selling, "but now it's in my socks, not above the waist." Theresa Russell told me she can't watch Whore because "it was hard. I can't detach myself from it." And when I asked Fred Williamson about the obscure Otto Preminger film Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon, he said, "Otto made Liza Minnelli so afraid. Her performance suffered because he intimidated her. So one day I lifted him up . . . and then we became friends!"
As I left, I was lifted by the sight of twin girls approaching Patty Duke and saying, "We look alike, we talk alike. . . ."
Inspiring old-time theater is back via Angels in America, the two-part Tony Kushner play that galvanized the '90s with its savage attack on those who betray their love, from closeted Mormons to squeamish gay boyfriends, layering that message with poetry, historical figures, and phantasmagorical visitations. After seeing the first half of the Signature Theater revival, I thought it was a decent try, but lacked the original's strength, some of the play's references and whimsies ("What are you doing in my hallucination?") coming off more heavy-handed than originally. But after Part II, by which point the actors had melted into their seething roles, I was cheering and vowing to fight AIDS, denial, and oppression all over again. What an experience! The world keeps spinning forward, but it's still one that desperately needs Angels in America.
The Scottsboro Boys could have benefited from some more detailed info pumped into the script instead of telling us for two hours how wrong it was to punish those innocent boys, the minstrel-show framework allowing for the bad people to get gleefully mocked throughout. It's hard to disagree with the sentiment—or the showmanship. I just wish the result was more thrilling than admirable, though numbers like the electrocution tap dance and the blacks-in-blackface finale really do impress. The fine music, cast, arrangements, and staging are all extremely not-guilty. Disagree? Well, fuck me, then.