Angels in America

by Tony Kushner

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What message is conveyed through the split scene technique in Act II, scene 9 of Angels in America?

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I tend to think that the message that emerges from Scene 9 in Act II is the idea that hurt is universal.  This had already been established, to an extent, in the First Act, scene 7.  Harper and Prior both speak of being at "the threshold of revelation."  The fact that one sees how both a homosexual man and a heterosexual woman can share their own revelations establishes the premise that there might not be that much difference between the emotional dynamics that exist between individuals in fragmented affairs.  The pain of a broken heterosexual relationship is not much different than the pain of a broken homosexual one.  We see this message revisited in Scene 9 of Act II.  In presenting it as a split scene, it is almost as if this message is reaffirmed in real time.  There is the pain of broken hopes and ruptured dreams when Joe tells Harper that he has to leave her.  This same experience of extinguished aspirations is evident when Louis comes to tell Prior that he must leave him.  In the split scene technique, one sees how the pain of what is already sensed, but hopefully averted comes crashing into Harper and Prior.  The split scene technique brings this into forceful view.  Both characters yearn for an angel or any external force to free them from the pain of abandonment they experience at that moment.  Showing both breakups in such raw emotion through a split scene technique brings the undercutting reality of how pain is shared in both conditions in a startling equivalent manner.  The universality of abandonment and broken dreams is seen in both contexts simultaneously, proving the applicability of its message in a split scene manner.

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