Documentary on Tony Kushner — Wrestling with Angels — Art to Improve Life


by Stanley Kauffmann

About Tony Kushner as a playwright, debate continues. About Kushner as a human being, the matter is settled. A new documentary, called Wrestling With Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner, presents the Jacob who wrestled with angels in America, now doing most of his wrestling with devils. The essence of the film is that this man, with not a touch of evangelistic pomp, cannot conceive of life as anything other than a campaign to improve life. 

Freida Lee Mock, an admirably skilled documentarian, followed Kushner from just after 9/11 until the 2004 presidential election. Much of this time was of course spent in or around the theater, but it becomes clear that Kushner believes in his theater work as a source of strength and possibility for other aspects of his life.  

Like Bernard Shaw in just this one respect, Kushner takes his playwriting as an enabler. Because of his fame, he is invited to universities and conferences and other public occasions where he speaks. He talks about current politics and its stench, but mostly about ways to live and choose….

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