Angels in America

Angels in America

Angels in America Perestroika: Act 1, Scene 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A voice shouts that we are in the Kremlin in Moscow. The scene opens in a strange room, at the front of which is an elderly man speaking from a podium. There is a huge red flag behind him. The man introduces himself as Aleksii Antedilluvianovich Prelapsarianov, the World’s Oldest Bolshevik. Aleksii admits that Communism is coming to an end—it’s dying a slow, painful death. Aleksii addresses a large crowd. He asks them what will come after Communism, and whether America truly has anything that can replace Communism. Finally, he asks, “Can we change?” As Aleksii falls silent, the red flag falls down.
As the second part of the play begins, Aleksii (reversing the sentiments of the Rabbi in the first scene of Part One) looks forward to an uncertain, even terrifying future. Aleksii’s name is also a play on words, as “antediluvian” means “before the flood” (usually the Biblical Flood of Noah) and “prelapsarian” means “before the fall” (before the Biblical Fall of Man). Both these ideas relate to some event that drastically changes the course of human history, and from which society must rebuild itself (not to mention more language related to the Bible and prophecy). All this also fits with the historical reality of the situation, in which the Soviet Union is on its last legs, and everyone is wondering: what will replace it? Moreover, can anything replace and better Communism? This is clearly an important question for Kushner, a lifelong socialist who supports the notion of a state owned by the workers, if not the particular state of the Soviet Union itself. In a broad sense, this opening scene sets the tone for the entire play—it’s big, bold, weird, and looking forward to an uncertain future.
Themes
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
The scene fades to Prior’s apartment, where he’s still being greeted by the Angel. The Angel roars that Prior is about to become a great prophet, who will spread “the great work” around the world. Prior shouts for the Angel to go away.
We’re back where we left off—with the angel greeting Prior and promising to deliver a message. Prior’s dismissal of the angel, then, feels very frustrating: after 2 hours spent preparing us for a big climactic scene… nothing happens. Still, there’s a serious point being made here amid the absurdity—sometimes, prophets don’t want to receive their prophecies.
Themes
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon