The benefit event also features Patti LuPone, Brian Tyree Henry, Paul Dano, Alan Cumming, and playwright Jeremy O. Harris.

By Christian Holub
September 25, 2020 at 11:55 AM EDT
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COVID-19 is not the first pandemic to wreak havoc on America. Back in the '80s, it was HIV/AIDS that was killing Americans with little help in sight. To mark the similarities between that moment and this one, as well as demonstrate what kind of theater can be staged virtually in the age of lockdown, several Broadway stars are joining together to perform scenes from Angels in America next month.

Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes is Tony Kushner's landmark two-part play about various couples and families whose lives intersect and disintegrate in New York City in the AIDS-stricken '80s. The starry cast for this incarnation is headlined by Glenn Close as closeted gay lawyer Roy Cohn. According to The New York Times, Close "served as her own wig master, makeup artist and camera operator" as she transformed herself into Cohn and assembled a makeshift hospital room set in her Montana home. With each actor performing their scenes where they are, the producers were able to collage their digital likenesses together so it looks like they're in the same room.

Other roles will be performed by multiple actors. Brian Tyree Henry is playing Prior Walter, a young gay man who contracts AIDS, in some scenes; in others, the character will be performed by Paul Dano or Andrew Rannells. Slave Play playwright Jeremy O. Harris will play Belize in some scenes, while S. Epatha Merkerson and A Strange Loop star Larry Owens play the character in others. Jake Gyllenhaal and Alan Cumming are also set to make unspecified "special appearances."

Four actresses — Patti LuPone, Linda Emond, Nikki M. James, and Daphne Rubin-Vega — combine to portray the angel that visits Prior. They were all styled the same (black tops, no makeup, hair pulled back tight) and their faces were overlaid on top of each other in a process that took six weeks to complete, according to the Times report. You can get a taste of how it looks in the teaser video above.

The Great Work Begins: Scenes from Angels in America will stream live on the Broadway.com YouTube channel starting at 8:30 p.m. ET on Oct. 8. The show benefits the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) Fund to Fight Covid-19, and the performance will be followed by a live conversation about the play, activism, and COVID-19 research between Kushner, director Ellie Heyman, some of the actors, and Foundation for AIDS Research chief executive Kevin Robert Frost. That conversation will be accessible to viewers who donate $100 or more.

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