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Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches
by Tony Kushner
Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches Act 1, Scene 4 Summary
It's the same day, the stage directions inform us. Louis and Prior are sitting outside the funeral home all dressed up. The service for Sarah Ironson has just finished. Louis says his grandmother, Sarah Ironson, saw Emma Goldman speak in Yiddish. (Emma Goldman was a radical anarchist. More here.) All his grandmother could remember about this famous lady, though, was that she was a good speaker and had an awesome hat. Louis comments on how weird the rabbi was who conducted the funeral. Prior agrees and says he wants the rabbi at his funeral. Louis says he's got to head out to the cemetery to throw some dirt over the coffin. He jokes that that's a weird way to show love – throwing dirt at the deceased. Louis comments that his grandmother was kind of crazy and talked to herself all the time. She reminded him of his mother, so he never visited her in the rest home. Prior gives Louis a hug and says he's sorry that Louis' grandma is dead. Louis apologizes for not introducing Prior to his family. He says that he gets all "closety at these family things," meaning that he feels compelled to hide the fact that he's gay (1.4.8). Prior makes fun of his boyfriend, saying that Louis acts all "butch," and introduces himself as "Lou" for fear that he will lisp when he says Louis (1.4.9). We find out that Prior's cat is missing. Prior says it's Louis' fault because he insisted on calling it Sheba. (This is a reference to Come Back Little Sheba, a play by William Inge. In the play, the main character's dog, Sheba, is missing. More here.) Prior says it was doubly stupid to name the cat Sheba, since it's a dog's name. Louis retorts that he wanted a dog anyway. The two debate over whether cats or dogs are cooler. Prior says cats have intuition and that Sheba left because she knew something was wrong. Louis asks what's wrong. Prior reveals a dark purple spot on his arm and says it's K.S. (K.S. stands for Kaposi's sarcoma. It's a disease that causes sores or lesions to open up all over the body. In the 80s, it became synonymous with AIDS.) Prior's calls the lesion "The wine dark kiss of the angel of death" (1.4.31). He says he didn't tell Louis because he was afraid Louis would leave him. Prior asks if Louis is ready to go home – they can see if Sheba has come back. Louis says he's got to go to the cemetery, but he promises that he'll come back home afterwards.
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