Friday, October 9, 2009

The return of Angels in Washington

The Washington Times is reporting today that Tony Kushner's play Angels in America, which won him a Pulitzer in the 1990s, is back in the Washington D.C. area.

The stellar review of the play was much like the reviews of the 1990s. As my friend Dan Stout observed back then, there are very few writers who even care to notice how painfully mocking the play is of my Mormon faith. The angel in the title is a deliberate metaphor on Angel Moroni. A dying gay man, the plays hero, in that sense, becomes a symbol of Joseph Smith. One scene was set in a visitors' center.

Mormonism in the play is the symbol of all that's wrong with America. I believe the play, therefore, may well be responsible for some of the hostility gay America has felt for Latter-day Saints.

The play mocks Mormon doctrine and the Book of Mormon origin story. Now, I have never chosen to see the play, but I read it when I was a young reporter so I could carefully write about it at the time, so it remains startling to me how few journalists care to point out the bigotry inherent in the play's heart.

Is it that the stereotypes of Mormons are so unquestioned that people don't even see them as bigotry? Is it that Mormonism is so unknown that people don't realize how offensive it is? Is it that Mormonism is seen as just another religion and there is a general antipathy toward religion?

I urge reviewers to think if an ethnic minority were portrayed as Mormons are portrayed and ask whether the play could, in fact, be deeply offensive and ask why. I suggest that Latter-day Saints quietly avoid seeing it. Its author deserves no more money for this terrible play than he has already received.

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