Wrestling With Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner

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9-11 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12
PBS

It's time to wrestle again with playwright Tony Kushner in this latest installment of PBS' documentary series "P.O.V." "Wrestling With Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner" (which closes the series' 2007 season) takes a good look at the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and social critic, most notably responsible for the witty and biting two-part epic "Angels in America."

"Wrestling" is a spellbinding look at Kushner as it catches him at work, with his family and out at the podium speaking about political problems he sees in this country.

Kushner's politics blend easily with his work and with the way he conducts his life. This makes his plays all the more passionate. Filmmaker Freida Lee Mock catches Kushner in all his passions. Her camera never lets up closing in on a man who makes a great subject for docu because he's so animated and energized. As a gay Jewish man raised in the south, Kushner might be America himself -- a blend of wit, compassion and concern. His voice is not lost on Mock.

Kushner is open about all aspects of his life, from the warmth of his childhood growing up in Lake Charles, La., and his artistic parents who encouraged Kushner's interests, to his early years in college coming to terms with his homosexuality, to his burgeoning and now splendid career as a playwright.

"Angels in America" is given time in this docu, as are Kushner's other works, especially "Homebody/Kabul," Kushner's play about America's involvement with Afghanistan. "Homebody," as Kushner notes in depth, is especially compelling because the play was about to open when Sept. 11 occurred and gave the playwright plenty of thought about what he had just produced.

Mock divides her docu into sections delineating Kushner's life and passions. We get "As a Citizen of the World," "Mama, I'm a Homosexual, Mama," "Collective Action to Overcome Injustice" and an epilogue, "Action Can Change the Course of Things." We hear from Emma Thompson, Meryl Streep, Mike Nichols and others.

What this filmmaker does best is to understand and to present Kushner as a compassionate and committed artist who views his life and his work at one with his strong social conscience. This docu is smart in that it understands the artist no less than the political soul in Kushner.

P.O.V.: WRESTLING WITH ANGELS: PLAYWRIGHT TONY KUSHNER
PBS
American Film Foundation and Sanders & Mock Prods.
Credits:
Director-writer-producer: Freida Lee Mock
Executive producer: Terry Sanders
Cinematographers: Eddie Marritz, Don Lenzer, Bestor Cram, Terry Sanders
Editor: Anne Stein
Music: Jeanine Tesori
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