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'Angels!' gives insight into life after death

POSTED November 6, 2012 7:51 p.m.

What originally started as a basic workshop in Los Angeles has now reincarnated into a production that portrays a sensational, comedic manifestation of life after death.  California State University, Stanislaus’ Theater Department will present “Angels!” an original musical written by the visionary veteran of the stage, Sean Abley.

Within this tale, the audience will be transported from Earth, and rise to the heavens with the help of angels. These angels, as performed by cast members, convey their imminent insight and thoughtful experiences associated with life and death to the audience, while incorporating significant detail and thematic practices that leaves the production open for interpretation.

In this creative fabrication of the afterlife, the fourth wall is broken as the actors interact, and speak directly to the audience, as though personally addressing them. The audience even has its own role as souls who have departed the Earth, and are left to wait, as though in a lobby, while their paperwork is getting completed in order to move to the “other side.”  The angels keep the audience company with musical numbers and prodding topics that entangle the onlookers with darling, prevalent themes.

“Angels!” is an unconventional and thought-provoking production that focuses directly on the afterlife, and often intertwines historical and biblical references to keep the story fresh, familiar, and grounded. There is even a “surprise” angel who is guaranteed to capture the attention and adoration of all audience members.

Despite the production's reference to religious themes, Abley said “the Heaven aspect is kept to a minimum, and is more universal.” To Abley, death is a widespread concept that concerns everyone, encompassing all religious beliefs. Likewise, the thematic concepts surrounding life and death allow audience members to reflect on their own situations in the here and now.

“There has been so much divisiveness,” Abley said about the world today, “and this show is like dessert. It brings us together.”

The prevalent theme that Abley wishes audience members to take away from the musical is “to make sure the life you live on Earth is good. You can never live it again.”

 “Angels!” will be performed at CSU Stanislaus’ Studio Theatre at 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday and Nov. 15-17; and 2 p.m. Nov. 18. The show is $7 for students, $9 for seniors, and $10 for general audience members. To purchase tickets, call 667-3451.

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