New Yorker theater goers must see a tour de force performance by Moe Angelos who portrays a young, intellectually and erotically obsessed Susan Sontag — whose first loves were women — in “Sontag: Reborn”
Do not pass go, do not pay $200, but go directly to the New York Theater Workshop and order tickets immediately for “Sontag: Reborn, The Journals and Notebooks of Susan Sontag,” starring Moe Angelos in a tour de force performance of Sontag.
In a one-woman show, Angelos carries off a powerful performance of Sontag — the literary icon and political activist who came to prominence in the 1960′s — as a progeny, precocious, self-absorbed, intellectually obsessed teenager, who atruggles with her erotic attraction to women. “Sontag: Reborn” is based upon an adaption of her notebooks, which were edited by her son David Rieff and published in 2008.
Directed by Marrianne Weems, Angelos’ performance portrays Sontag bursting into young teenage life as an unplugged lesbian, never before so openly portrayed and wonderfully shared in her own words, which are intimate, descriptively erotic, and fundamentally characterized by an intensely aroused libido during her first sexual relationship with “H” in San Francisco in the 1950′s.
Sontag pronounces, acknowledging the forces against homosexuality in America circa 1950: “I desire to write is connected to my own sexuality. I need to identify as a weapon, to match the weapons society has against me.”
As an afficiando of the history of gay life in America, I was enthralled with Sontag’s description of lesbian bar life in San Francisco during the 1950s, which includes period video of drag kings. Absolutely captivating.
Not to be downplayed, is the magnificient staging which is central to the play’s approach of a superimposed iconic Sontag smoking, in black and white video, while reading her notebooks, in which Angelos engages in intermittant repartee throughout the play. It is exquisitely presented.
It is through the older Sontag words and unpolished prose, we see her come to life as a young and magnficiently imperfect prodigy who is obsessed with learning, surrounded with her books and self-absorbed in her attractions to her first loves with women, followed by a very quick 10-day impetuous engagement and marriage to Phillip Rieff with whom she remained for eight years and produced her son.
Designed by the Builder’s Association, the stage creates an intimacy with Angelos as Sontag, while she urgently writes, superimposed on a scrim over the stage, Sontag’s writings are revealed in her authentic handwriting extracted from the original notebooks.
This multi-media presentation is integral to the play’s powerful presentation of Sontag who is at times frightened of her sexuality and attraction to women, but is fully obsessed with her lover in San Francisco, and again later in Paris when she pursues Maria Irene Fornes, a Cuban-American avant garde playwright, with whom she lives for several years when they return to New York City.
Sontag: Unborn is a short run, ending on June 30. Order your tickets now. It is a must see!
Video courtesy of the New York Theater Workshop.
Photos via Facebook.
Tanya L. Domi is the Deputy Editor of the New Civil Rights Movement. She is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and teaches human rights in East Central Europe and former Yugoslavia. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi was a nationally recognized LGBT civil rights activist who worked for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force during the campaign to lift the military ban in the early 1990s. Domi has also worked internationally in a dozen countries on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights and gender issues. She is chair of the board of directors for GetEQUAL. Domi is currently writing a book about the emerging LGBT human rights movement in the Western Balkans.
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