Play Review: “Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes”

“Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes” is an American play written by Tony Kushner and published in 1991. The play explores the stories of two troubled couples, one straight (John Pitt and his wife Harper) and another gay (Louis Ironson and Prior Walter) (Kushner). For this literature review, my focus was on how the camp tone plays out in the play. I searched keywords and phrases such as “camp tone in Angels in America,” “escapism,” and “fantasy.” I assembled two secondary sources: LitCharts, the popular source, and the article “Camp Tone in Angels in America” by Justyna Bucknall-Holynska. Both sources take up the issues in Kushner’s play. In the popular sources, it is not clear who the author is.

On the other hand, the article “Camp Tone in Angels in America” mentions the author at the beginning of the article. Justyna Bucknall-Holynska is an assistant professor at Collegium Da Vinci in Poznań, where she teachers film and audio-visual culture. The questions on authorship are important in churning out seasoned scholars. Sources that have seasoned scholars are highly likely to be scholarly in nature and objective in their analysis.

The popular source “Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy” is about 580 words, or two pages long. On the other hand, Bucknall-Holynska’s article is ten pages long. The length of a source is a determinant of its authenticity. Long sources usually imply that the author has spent extensive time exploring a given subject effectively. Scholarly articles are usually long because the author has conducted deep research from a variety of sources.

On the other hand, popular sources are usually shorter and straight to the point to make them shareable to a wider audience platform. The authors of “Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy” does not include any bibliography at the end of the article. On the other hand, Bucknall-Holynska includes a Works Cited, a mixture of academic and popular sources. The author includes parenthetical citations that are linked to the Works Cited. An author’s use of secondary source research helps promote the authenticity of their work because they base on what already exists in literature and improve on it. While searching for articles that contain the same text as the selected sources, I did not find any. Nevertheless, if any other outside sources use phrases from the two secondary sources, a claim of plagiarism would arise if either of the sources has failed to cite the other. If, for instance, an outside source has used material from Bucknall-Holynska’s article without credit, I would check on the publication dates to establish who had the material first. It is important as a researcher I give credit to phrases I borrow from other people’s work to avoid my work being a product of plagiarism.

The article “Fantasy, Escape and Tragedy” on LitCharts uses an informal tone due to its expressive nature. The article uses contractions such as doesn’t, don’t, and shouldn’t. It also uses more emotion to draw the reader to relate with the subjects. Furthermore, the article takes a conversational tone in which the author(s) say, “This points us to a broader point about fantasy in Angels in America” (LitCharts n.p). On the other hand, Bucknall-Holynska’s article takes a more formal tone in which words are expressed in full and not as contractions. The article is critical and approaches the subject matter from a third-person perspective by referring to subjects or characters as he, she, and they. Both articles, although differing in their scholarly nature, are written for a generalist audience. The language used in both sources is relatively accessible by most readers. The LitCharts source explains and summarizes the subject, while Bucknall-Holynska’s article establishes specific arguments over the subject matter. The LitChart source only uses the primary text to give much of the evidence in the article and profoundly examines the passages in relation to the subject in context. On the other hand, Bucknall-Holynska’s article explores several secondary sources apart from the primary text to outline the evidence for her arguments. Much of the evidence is borrowed from numerous secondary sources.

LitCharts fails to make use of sources. The author(s) briefly references the primary text and do not attempt to look for other secondary sources on the primary text, implying that they did not take time to immerse themselves into research. On the other hand, while Bucknall-Holynska successfully engages herself with the research by conducting research from various resources and giving her perspective on the subject. For instance, she researches the meaning of ‘camp’ and compiles the various perspectives into her own. Bucknall-Holynska claims that although often denied, camp is predominantly a gay cultural mode (Bucknall-Holynska 154). She later says, “it (camp) provides an aesthetic function that is to be enjoyed in and of itself (156). To validate her argument, she borrows various sources in addition to the primary text.

Nevertheless, both texts help me understand the class text in how they have conducted an in-depth analysis of issues facing the characters. While reading the class text, I had a hard time identifying the usage of camp. My outlook on the text was plain, and as I was reading the play, my main interest was directed towards identifying literary devices such as irony, sarcasm, biblical allusion, and foreshadowing. However, the two sources helped me understand how camp has been used to water down serious issues such as HIV/AIDS among the LGBT community. The sources helped me have a different outlook on the text.

The LitChart article uses the characters’ actions to reveal hidden sides of the story from the bare eye. For instance, the actions of people like Prior reveal desperation amidst attempts to make their problems appear light and less severe. Bucknall-Holynska’s text reveals how camp gives it an aesthetic nature despite the text exploring serious social issues.  Camp becomes to the characters a trip away from the painful experiences they undergo for being who they are. Prior’s life becomes marked with camp even as his health keeps deteriorating. He takes up different roles, such as drag queen, a prophet, and a hero, in a bid to downplay his situation. He jokes sarcastically, overreacts, acts effeminately, varies the tone of his voice, and talks with a theatrical garnish, all in an attempt to downplay the reality of being a homosexual AIDS victim. ChitCharts explores the characters’ attempts to downplay their sorry states by making fun, a fantasy that helps them escape from the reality of the world in which they find themselves. Prior criticizes the drag queen’s funeral reveals his fantasy about a serious topic like death. In a real sense, this fantasy is only a defense mechanism that helps Prior escape from the tragedies happening in the real world. Another example of fantasy is when Harper Pitt hallucinates escaping from her husband Joe Pitt after coming out as gay. When confronted with pain that is hard to endure, human beings create shelters of imagination for themselves.

In conclusion, the two sources have helped me develop a new understanding of the class text.+. They have their strengths and weaknesses. Although LitCharts may not be considered an academic source, the information provided gives important insight when conducting an individual analysis of the text. Furthermore, the source is easy to understand due to the simple vocabulary used. However, it may not be easy to ascertain the validity of the information provided because the popular sources are rarely cited. In this case, I am not sure who the author is. Bucknall-Holynska’s meets all the requirements of what an academic source should be, and therefore the information provided is more reliable. However, Bucknall-Holynska’s work is harder to understand than the popular source because of the terms used.

Share this Post