At play in the ashes of the dead: János Szász on directing ‘Angels in America’

DC Theater Arts

I’ve seen several iterations of Tony Kushner’s masterwork Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches, but the current Arena Stage production has stayed with me in a distinct and resonant way. Directed by the renowned theater and filmmaker János Szász, a Hungarian émigré, and performed in the round upon a circular expanse of white sand, the production felt to me as epochal as Peter Brooks’ legendary Royal Shakespeare Company Midsummer Night’s Dreamwhich he staged in a white box with actors on trapezes. As did the Brooks Midsummer, the Szász Angels transforms our understanding of a great work in a way that finds in it new truth.

So acute was my experience of this Angels in America that I wanted to find out more about the process of creating and executing it. I wanted to understand its artistry and ethos from the inside. What values went into it? What aspirations inspired it? And a week after the opening, I had the good fortune to ask my questions of the director himself.

János, as I came to know him via Zoom, was eager to talk. In the revelatory interview that followed — here edited for length and clarity — I found him to be the personification of warmth, intellect, and empathy.

Photo of gray-haired, bearded man in glasses.

János Szász

János Szász