A reader asked recently why performances of Carolina Actors Studio Theatre's "Angels in America" weren't packed. Michael SImmons, CAST's artistic director, confirmed that crowds have been good but not selling the place out, which he'd hoped they would.
When I heard CAST was doing this play, I was afraid this was going to happen. It's 20-plus years old; it was filmed for an HBO broadcast that was reportedly terrific, though I never saw it; thousands of Charlotteans already did see the live version when Charlotte Repertory Theatre did it in the 1990s. The current outing, which is extremely worthwhile and runs through Saturday, doesn't have the buzz of that initial outing. (To get tickets, call 704-455-8542 or go to nccast.com.)
The first one became a must-see event for people (straight or gay) who loved theater and people who simply wanted to be in the know about Charlotte culture. I met at least a dozen people who weren't regular playgoers but bought tickets out of curiosity, to see what the firestorm of protest was about.
Now Tony Kushner's drama is just a long play -- two long plays, actually -- and while they have great merit, that's a disadvantage: "Angels" has lost its event status.
If you're going to it now, you're buying a ticket not to support the gay community or thumb your nose at right-wingers who protested the show in the '90s. You're going because you wish to enjoy this as a piece of theater, rather than something that puts you among the cognoscenti. It's like choosing to see a three-hour play by Eugene O'Neill or George Bernard Shaw. How many theatergoers would want to do that? Sadly, in Charlotte, not many.
I don't think it has anything to do with the subject matter now. A friend who enjoyed both halves tremendously the first time said to me, "I was moved by it, but I don't need to have that same experience again." I assume many theatergoers took her view. But if you're curious at all, you should go before it's gone.