"Angels in America"

Through July 3

Signature Theatre

Tickets: 703/218-6500

You've got your typical angel -- the white-robed, feathery kind that floats on air and smiles sunbeams -- and your Signature Theatre angel. That would be the one with wings made of screen doors, wearing a curve-hugging gold gown with a decidedly earthy attitude.

She makes a brief but blazing appearance at the end of the first installment of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Angels in America," and the theater's creative team wanted to make sure the image would sizzle in the mind's eye long afterward. So costume designer Anne Kennedy put Kimberly Schraf in a slinky dress of crushed silk organza that pools at her feet. She fashioned sharp-edged feathers out of metal screens, hot-glued together for a wingspan of 25 feet. Schraf wears the wings in a harness on her back.

"It was my sense that people would expect a Christmas tree angel," says Kennedy. "I thought, this is my opportunity to fool around with that idea."

It takes a crew of stagehands to help Schraf get into her harness and wire her for sound (she utters a single ringing command before the blackout).

"I'm a glorified visual effect," she says. "Everything builds toward an entrance, and then you're finished." For her, the real revelation comes in Part Two (which the Signature will perform at the end of July), when the angel has more to do than simply show up.