Angels in America

Angels in America

Angels in America Perestroika: Act 1, Scene 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Immediately after seeing the Angel, Prior wakes up in his bed. Prior calls Belize—working late at a hospital—to tell that he’s had a wet dream—a rarity, given his medical state (and even stranger given that the source of the wet dream was an Angel). Belize is confused, especially when Prior claims that he’s feeling energetic and excited—as if something great is about to begin. Prior asks Belize to come visit him soon. Belize promises that he will, and he sings Prior a hymn—“Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” As Belize finishes the hymn, Henry (Roy Cohn’s doctor) walks into the hospital, and Belize hangs up.
Prior’s bodily condition has deteriorated to the point where any sign of sexual arousal is a sign of health—indeed, of life itself. This complicates the play’s interpretation of sex in an important way. For many people during the AIDS crisis, sex became almost synonymous with danger and death. Here, however, Kushner gives sexual stimulation the opposite connotation.
Themes
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Henry shows Belize the paperwork for a new, emergency patient. Belize says that Henry has made a mistake—this patient should be sent to get treatment for liver cancer. Henry angrily orders Belize to give him a different treatment, adding that this is a very important patient. Henry leaves Belize to study the paperwork. Belize is amused when he looks at the patient’s name, murmuring, “The lord moves in mysterious ways.” Alone, Belize calls Prior back and tells him that Roy Cohn—a conservative icon—is being treated for AIDS.
Belize knows enough about history and politics to know that Roy Cohn is a homophobe—the embodiment of everything Belize hates about America (with its “big ideas”). In some performances of the play, Belize isn’t really surprised when he reads that Roy Cohn has AIDS—it’s as if he was already so convinced of Cohn’s hypocrisy that Cohn’s condition barely qualifies as new information.
Themes
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon