Review: ‘Wrestling with Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner’

A golden opportunity to analyze the most vital and creative contempo American playwright is missed in Freida Lee Mock's docu, "Wrestling With Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner." Kushner's art demands a filmmaker of equally challenging artistry, able to plumb an opus based in polemics, politics and Brecht, instead of psychodrama.

A golden opportunity to analyze the most vital and probably most creative contempo American playwright is missed in Freida Lee Mock’s docu, “Wrestling With Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner.” Kushner’s art demands a filmmaker of equally challenging artistry, able to plumb an opus based in polemics, politics and Brecht, instead of psychodrama. Instead, Mock provides a mild, PBS-style pic more interested in Kushner’s busy schedule and good citizenship than his writing. Vid and pub tube play, where newcomers to Kushner will at least be served with a good intro, look to be prime platforms, with theatrical sales a long shot.

Lensed on poor-grade vid (by several d.p.’s of varying caliber), doc follows Kusher as he dashes around Manhattan from project to project, with a few time-outs for visits to his Hudson River Valley getaway or his Lake Charles, La. hometown for his dad’s 80th birthday. Most revealing section covers Kushner’s collaboration with Maurice Sendak on a fresh stage version of the legendary “Brundibar,” once performed by Jewish kids in Nazi death camps.

Wrestling with Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner

Production

An American Film Foundation presentation. (International sales: The Film Sales Co., New York.) Produced by Freida Lee Mock. Executive producer, Terry Sanders. Directed, written by Freida Lee Mock.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Eddie Marritz, Don Lenzer, Bestor Cram, Terry Sanders; editor, Anne Stein; music, Jeanine Tesori. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Spectrum), Jan. 20, 2006. Running time: 102 MIN.

With

Tony Kushner, Oskar Eustis, Maurice Sendak, William Kushner, Marcia Gay Harden, Meryl Streep, Linda Emond, George C. Wolfe, Larry Kramer, Tonya Pinkins, Ela Weisberger, Jeanine Tesori, Rita Wolf, Eric Kushner, Mark Harris, Harrison Chad, Anika Noni Rose.
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