Study Guide

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

By Tony Kushner

Act 1, Scene 1

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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