Commonplace Book: Angels in America

Compelling passages, notable quotables, bon mots, disjecta, ephemera, and miscellany.

ROY: So say it.
HENRY: Roy Cohn, you are …
You have had sex with men, many many times, Roy, and one of them, or any number of them, has made you very sick. You have AIDS.
Your problem, Henry, is that you are hung up on words, on labels, that you believe they mean what they seem to mean. AIDS. Homosexual. Gay. Lesbian. You think these are names that tell you who someone sleeps with, but they don’t tell you that.
ROY: No. Like all labels they tell you one thing and one thing only: where does the individual so identified fit in the food chain, the pecking order? Not ideology, or sexual taste, but something much simpler: clout. No who I fuck or who fucks me, but who will pick up the phone when I call, who owes me favors. This is what a label refers to. Now to someone who does not understand this, homosexual is what I am because I have sex with men. But really this is wrong. Homosexual are not men who sleep with other men. Homosexuals are men who in fifteen years of trying cannot get a pissant antidiscrimination bill through City Council. Homosexuals are men who know nobody This is reality. I have sex with men. But unlike nearly every other man of whom this is true, I bring the guy I’m screwing to the White House and President Reagan smiles at us and shakes his hand. Because what I am is not defined entirely by who I am. Roy Cohn is not a homosexual. Roy Cohn is a heterosexual man, Henry, who fucks around with guys.
ROY: And what is my diagnosis, Henry?
HENRY: You have AIDS, Roy.
ROY: No, Henry, no. AIDS is what homosexuals have. I have liver cancer.

From Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on American Themes: Part One: Millennium Approaches, by Tony Kushner (Theatre Communications Group, 1992, 1993)


PRIOR: I … I want to return this.

(He holds out the Book. No one takes it from him.)

AUSTRALIA: What is the matter with it?
PRIOR (A beat, then): It just … It just … We can’t just stop. We’re not rocks – progress, migration, motion is … modernity. It’s animate, it’s what living things do. We desire. Even if all we desire is stillness, it’s still a desire for. Even if we go faster than we should. We can’t wait. And wait for what? God …


PRIOR: God …


PRIOR: He isn’t coming back.
And even if he did …
If He ever did come back, if He ever dared to show His face, or his Glyph or whatever in the Garden again … if after all the terrible days of this terrible century He returned to see … how much suffering His abandonment created, if He did come back you should sue the bastard. That’s my only contribution to all this Theology. Sue the bastard for walking out. How dare He.


ANGEL: Thus spake the Prophet.


From Angels in America: Part Two: Perestroika, by Tony Kushner (Theatre Communications Group, 1992, 1994)

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