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Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches

Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches


by Tony Kushner

Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches Act 1, Scene 5 Summary

  • Stage directions let us know that it's late on the same day.
  • This is a split scene: on stage we see Joe and Harper at their apartment, and we also see Louis hanging out at the cemetery with Rabbi Isidor Chemelwitz.
  • Harper and Joe debate whether to move to Washington, DC.
  • Joe says it's a great honor and he's sick of making hardly any money.
  • Harper doesn't want to go; Washington freaks her out, and anyway she has lots to get finished in Brooklyn, like painting the bedroom.
  • Her husband points out that she's had tons of time to finish painting the bedroom.
  • She says she doesn't like going in there when he's not home. Harper explains that she's heard someone in the bedroom, and it's probably a man with a knife.
  • Joe tells her there's no one in there.
  • She insists there is and says something creepy is going on in their apartment – it reminds her of the one in Rosemary's Baby.
  • (Never seen that movie? Click here.)
  • Joe points out that if their apartment is so creepy, then they really ought to move.
  • Harper claims that Washington would be even worse, because that's where The Exorcist is set.
  • (You have to have seen this one, right?)
  • Joe comments that his wife sees the devil everywhere.
  • He asks her how many pills she took today.
  • "None. One. Three. Only three," she says (1.5.42).
  • (Do you believe her? Yeah, us neither.)
  • Okay, now the dudes on the other side of the stage start talking.
  • Louis asks the rabbi why there are only two little pegs holding his grandma's coffin shut.
  • Chemelwitz tells him that it's so she can get out easily if she wants to.
  • Louis says he hopes she doesn't come out, because he kind of abandoned her.
  • The rabbi says some stuff in Yiddish. Louis doesn't speak the language.
  • Chemelwitz translates: "Sharper than the serpent's tooth is the ingratitude of children. Shakespeare. Kenig [King] Lear" (1.5.48).
  • Louis asks the rabbi what the "Holy Writ" has to say about a person who abandons someone he loves when the person really needs him (1.5.49).
  • The rabbi doesn't understand why someone would do that.
  • Louis gets all philosophical about it, saying sickness just doesn't compute with the abandoner's super intellectual idea about how history is constantly progressing toward something better.
  • After a short rant on this kind of stuff, Louis gets real and says, "Maybe vomit... and sores and disease... really frighten him" ( (Uh oh. It sounds like Louis is talking about Prior, now, and not his grandma.)
  • The rabbi says the Holy Scriptures don't have a thing to say about a person like that.
  • Louis confesses that he's afraid of the things he may do.
  • Chemelwitz tells him to go find a priest if he wants to confess.
  • "But I'm not a Catholic, I'm a Jew," says Louis (1.5.55).
  • The rabbi replies, "Worse luck for you, bubbulah. Catholics believe in forgiveness. Jews believe in Guilt" (1.5.56).
  • Louis tells the rabbi to make sure the pegs of his grandmother's coffin are tight.
  • Chemelwitz tells him not to worry – with the life Sarah Ironson had, she'd never want to come back.
  • Now Joe and Harper on the other side of the stage start talking again.
  • Joe talks about how he really wants to go to Washington because lots of great things are happening there. President Reagan is rocking it out and bringing America back to its former glory. He thinks Reagan is making the country a better place.
  • Harper disagrees, saying everything is getting worse, citing the ozone layer and a schizophrenic traffic cop she saw out the window as examples.
  • Her husband tells her she doesn't know what's going on in the world because she never goes outside. He also accuses her of having emotional problems.
  • Harper asks him where he goes when he's out walking and angrily adds that she doesn't have emotional problems.
  • Joe dodges the question about where he goes walking and just says he's sorry.
  • Harper says he never should have married her because he has too many secrets and lies.
  • "I want to be married to you, Harper," Joe replies (1.5.85).
  • She tells him he shouldn't want to be married to her, but then she seems to regret saying it.
  • Harper calls him buddy.
  • They buddy kiss.
  • Harper tells him she heard how to give a blowjob on the radio.
  • Joe tells her not to listen to stuff like that.
  • She says it's okay for Mormons to give blowjobs.
  • He's not having it.
  • Harper says a she heard a Jewish lady with a German accent talking about blowjobs on the radio. (This is a shout-out to Dr. Ruth, a famous sex doctor.)
  • She adds that it's a good time for her to make a baby.
  • Joe just kind of turns away.
  • Harper starts talking about the hole in the ozone layer again. She thinks the world is going to end.

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