When asked by Michael Cunningham (author of The Hours) about one of my favorite scenes in Angels in America — the moment when the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg delivers the Kaddish for Roy Cohn — Tony Kushner had this to say:
Forgiveness is a very complicated thing. It certainly became, as I wrote Perestroika, the chief issue because it became a big issue in the world, starting with perestroika, and all of these sort of democratic revolutions that were going on, not just in Eastern Europe, but also in Latin America for instance, where people really had to ask themselves, “Can you let go of the past?” Can you forgive somebody that’s done something really, really terrible to you? It’s undertheorized and underdiscussed in the Left. We don’t really have a morality that encompasses it, because Christian morality, which is a complete forgiveness, seems emotionally inadequate to most people. It’s an act of that kind of forgiveness; it’s something that most people aren’t capable of doing. And it also seems unjust in a way.
After finally seeing Angels performed last fall, I left the theater thinking, “I’ll be damned. I never realized that these plays are about grace.” I wonder how Kushner would respond to that, particularly if he knew what kind of mystery that word holds for me. I hope that he would be encouraged. Along similar lines, Charlie Rose once asked him about “spirituality in America.” Kushner replied:
I’m very ambivalent and undecided and confused about it. I’m a genuine agnostic. I don’t know, but I think that as we approach the millennium, it becomes clearer and clearer that there are features of human experience that the Left has traditionally not touched upon, including a sense of the miraculous and a sense of the magical. And as the Left develops in the face of whatever kind of world we’re looking at now, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that the spiritual has to be factored in. The spiritual has to be examined in a new way. We don’t know how to do that yet, but we’re working toward that.
That was in May, 1993. I wonder if they’ve made any progress.