Some plays hold such a vital position in contemporary history that they should be seen whenever the chance presents itself. "Angels in America," called Tony Kushner's "gay fantasia on national themes," is one of those important works - it's perhaps the most significant play of the past quarter century. So Otterbein University's current production of the epic's first part, "Millennium Approaches," shouldn't be missed.

Some plays hold such a vital position in contemporary history that they should be seen whenever the chance presents itself. "Angels in America," called Tony Kushner's "gay fantasia on national themes," is one of those important works - it's perhaps the most significant play of the past quarter century. So Otterbein University's current production of the epic's first part, "Millennium Approaches," shouldn't be missed.

Under the snappy direction of Ed Vaughan, it boasts several top-notch performances. Stanzi Davis nails the part of Harper Pitt, a drug-addled Mormon wife trying to both hold together her marriage and heal the entire world. Davis treads Harper's fine line between spacey incoherence and lucid sense. Lauren Friednash grows into a fierce Hannah Pitt, Harper's mother-in-law, as she travels from Utah to New York to help her son as he comes out of the closet and his marriage disintegrates. Friednash also makes an effective Ethel Rosenberg, half comforting, half torturing the notorious McCarthyite Roy Cohn as he suffers from AIDS.

Anthony Cason is strong as former drag queen Belize and as Mr. Lies, the travel agent of Harper's hallucinations. Cameron Hobbs nicely embodies the courage and the terror of Prior Walter, living with AIDS and the impending burden of "The Great Work" that will drive the second part of the play, "Perestroika."

Although six of the eight cast members are in their final year at Otterbein, I hope the university intends to stage Part Two next season, building on the many strengths of "Millennium Approaches.

Photo by Evan Zimmerman