NEW YORK — * At the cliffhanging ending of Part 1 of Tony Kushner's ``Angels in America,'' an Angel bursts through the ceiling and intones about the approaching millenium. It seemed as if Part 2 would offer additional thrills and a stunning denouement. Months later, ``Perestroika'' has arrived and we are given simply more of the same.
Coming from a mind as fertile as Kushner's, this is not a problem, though it is a disappointment. Part 1: ``Millenium Approaches'' was a sprawling mess of a play, but it contained enough brilliant moments to make it exciting theater.
``Perestroika'' is even more scattered stylistically and doesn't really overcome its flaws. At 3 hours and 45 minutes, it seems to go on and on, and when it does reach a fitful conclusion, you wish that the playwright had jettisoned all the extraneous material and combined the two evenings.
Part 2 continues the story of Prior Walter (played by Stephen Spinella), suffering with AIDS and devastated over the desertion of his companion, Louis (Joe Mantello). Louis experiences his own difficulties in his relationship with Joe Pitt (David Marshall Grant), particularly when he finds out that Joe has worked for years for the closeted, venomous lawyer Roy Cohn (Ron Leibman). Joe's wife, Harper (Marcia Gay Harden), is still on her spiritual quest, and Joe's Mormon mother, Hannah (Kathleen Chalfant), has made an unlikely friend in Prior. The Angel (Ellen McLaughlin) has declared Prior a prophet. Meanwhile, the hypocritical Cohn is in the hospital with the symptoms of AIDS but still attempting to wield his power.
Kushner never gets a handle on this sprawling plot, but his writing displays a humor that goes a long way toward undercutting the play's pretensions.
Anyone who sees Part 2 without seeing Part 1 first is likely to be baffled by the surreal goings-on. But for anyone who has seen ``Millenium,'' Part 2 is essential viewing, despite its flaws, if only to see how things come out.