Angels in America

Angels in America

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Perestroika Symbol Icon

In the late 80s and early 90s, the President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, instituted a series of liberal reforms in his country, which were collectively referred to as “perestroika.” These reforms allowed for greater freedom of speech, more international business investment, etc., and were hailed as proof that the Soviet Union was finally embracing the “Western values” of freedom and democracy. In a broader sense, perestroika could also be said to symbolize change in all its excitement, uncertainty, and danger. While many were optimistic about Gorbachev’s reforms, it was pointed out that perestroika wouldn’t necessarily “cure” Russia of its human rights problems. By titling the second half of his play “Perestroika,” Kushner sets the tone for a play about precisely this combination of excitement and danger: we get the sense that something is about to happen (some prophecy, some cure for AIDS, some resolution to the plot), but we don’t know—and don’t know if we want to know—what this something is.

Perestroika Quotes in Angels in America

The Angels in America quotes below all refer to the symbol of Perestroika. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Theatre Communications Group edition of Angels in America published in 2013.
Perestroika: Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

The Great Question before us is: Can we Change? In Time? And we all desire that Change will come.

Related Characters: Aleksii Antedilluvianovich Prelapsarianov (speaker)
Related Symbols: Perestroika, Funerals
Page Number: 137
Explanation and Analysis:

At the beginning of Part II of the play, we're introduced to a strange, comical figure, Aleksii Altedilluvianovich Prelapsarianov, who presides over the Kremlin in Moscow. In an ironic call-back to the opening scene of the play, Aleksii seems to be organizing a funeral--but this funeral is for the Soviet Union, not an individual person. By the late 1980s, it was clear to many that the Soviet Union was on its last legs: after decades of instability, it was finally going under.

What, we might well ask, does the collapse of the Soviet Union have to do with Kushner's play--a play about the AIDS crisis, the Reagan Administration, and the state of modern America? Without ever saying so explicitly, Kushner suggests that the collapse of the Soviet Union--just like the other major historical events of his play--was greeted as an opportunity for grand, historical change. For decades, the Soviet Union--a country founded on left-wing values--had been a rallying point for leftists in the United States, but after the 1950s, when news of the country's brutality became widely known, the left in America stopped praising Russia. With the collapse of the U.S.S.R., the question on everybody's mind was--what will become of left-wing values in the world?

In short, the opening scene of the play establishes a sense of uncertainty, both for the world and for liberals in particular. As millennium approaches, the characters in the play sense that a great change is coming--but nobody can agree on what this change will look like.


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Perestroika Symbol Timeline in Angels in America

The timeline below shows where the symbol Perestroika appears in Angels in America. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
...out that the Cold War is over: Gorbachev has brought in a new era of Perestroika and peace. Hannah is more skeptical, however. She wonders what’s going to replace Communism in... (full context)