cover image The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of ‘Angels in America’

The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of ‘Angels in America’

Isaac Butler and Dan Kois. Bloomsbury, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-1-63557-176-9

To create this grand oral history of the Pulitzer- and Tony-winning drama Angels in America, Butler and Kois (writers for Slate) collected stories from about 250 people associated with Tony Kushner’s play. Like guests at a fabulous cocktail party, these storytellers chat about the play’s development, performance, impact, and continued relevance, their tales spanning the decades from the play’s 1985 origin in a dream to the 2017 London revival. Stories about Kushner (director Declan Donnellan’s memory of the rehearsal process: “Tony wanted to break my arm”) pair well with the playwright’s self-deprecating recollections (“For some reason Angels is always terrible at the first table read”). David Marshall Grant, who played Joe Pitt in the original Broadway production, remembers feeling he was “a part of something that was way beyond me”; lighting designer Casey Cowan recalled how, during one production, there was “a tiny lick of flame coming out of the floor!”; and Kushner himself admits that “I made a terrible mistake with the flying.” Some familiarity with the play is helpful, but by the time this wide-ranging, occasionally chaotic conversation ends, even those who have never seen Angels will certainly be entertained and will come away with a great appreciation for the play. Photos. (Feb.)