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Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches
by Tony Kushner
Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches Act 1, Scene 1 Summary
October-November 1985 Stage directions tell us that we're in the "last days of October" (1.1.1). We see Rabbi Isidor Chemelwitz alone onstage with a coffin. The rough pine coffin is decorated with a prayer shawl that has a Star of David on it. (If you haven't figured it out already, we're at a Jewish funeral. We're supposed to imagine actors onstage playing the mourners.) Rabbi Chemelwitz introduces himself with a heavy Eastern European accent, saying he's from the Bronx Home for Aged Hebrews. He proclaims that we're here to mourn a lady named Sarah Ironson. The rabbi lists the names of the deceased's family, unapologetically reading off a sheet of paper. He admits that he didn't know the deceased very well – she never said too much around the Bronx Home for Aged Hebrews. However, he knows the kind of person she was. Chemelwitz gets all poetic and talks about all the Eastern European Jews who, like Sarah, immigrated from "the villages of Russia and Lithuania" (1.1.2). He suggests that they never fully integrated into American culture, calling the US "the melting pot that never melted" (1.1.2). The rabbi tells his audience that they can never make a journey across the sea quite like Sarah did, because those kinds of "Great Voyages" don't exist anymore (1.1.2). Chemelwitz concludes by saying, "She was the last of the Mohicans, this one was. Pretty soon... all the old will be dead" (1.1.2).
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