This Mike Nichols/HBO adaptation of the Pulitzer-Prize-winning play of the same name is an epic tale of the AIDS epidemic in Reagan-era New York. Perhaps best known for its searing denunciation of right-wing hypocrisy in the face of the plague that struck America’s gay community hardest, the film and the play are about much more than politics. In one of the film’s most memorable scenes, Prior Walter, a gay man dying of AIDS, is called on to be a prophet by an angel who crashes through his apartment ceiling. God, you see, has become more enamored with man, his “least creation,” than the angels, and has begun to abandon them in an attempt to imitate man’s own restlessness and dynamism. The Nichols’ adaptation was well received, especially for its stunning visual representation of the empyrean. New York magazine described Nichols’ portrayal of heaven as “a little like the Shrine of the Bab in the Baha’i Gardens in Haifa after an artillery bombardment.” As visually stunning as the television adaptation, it’s playwright Tony Kushner’s lush dialogue that carries the day. “An operatic lamentation, a sort of choral response to Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, during which the playwright took more chances than Eugene O’Neill,” raved New York.
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