Friday, May 9, 2014

Idle Thoughts -- Transform and Roll Out!


9) Discuss the theme of transformation and movement as it applies to at least two characters.

Let's consider the transformation and movement of Cohen. At the beginning of the play he is still a very powerful man. He is powerful enough to make a local hospital pretend that he has cancer when he clearly has AIDS.  He brags to his doctor that he can pick up the phone and talk to the president's wife if he wishes to.  He declares that he can have sex with a man and yet the president will still shake his hand. This in a time when homosexuality was regarded as a perverted mental illness and fear of AIDS meant physical isolation for anyone even suspected of possibly having the disease.  He sees himself as a sort of demigod. He has so much power that he thinks he is above all the ordinary rules which mere mortals must obey.

An historical note:  in real life, Cohen was so arrogant in his assumption of power that he actually thought he could give orders to the US Army and force them to obey. This is one of the major events which led to his downfall and the downfall of his master, Joe McCarthy.

He is wrong, of course. He cannot beat this disease. Although his power allows him to blackmail his way into a secret stash of AZT, the only medication which had hope of slowing the progress of AIDS, it is not enough to save his life.

Politically, he is also being destroyed. Sen. McCarthy, the great source of his power, has been censured by Congress. All his   careful political structures, which made him into such an incredibly powerful person, have not only faded away, they have become negatives. No one in Washington wants to be associated with such a miserable failure.

He cannot even find peace within himself. Either because she is actually there haunting him, or because his guilty conscience forces him to believe she is there, the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg haunts and torments him.  He illegally and immorally used his political power and cleverness as a lawyer to ensure that she would be executed, so now she's back to take vengeance.

Sounds a lot like Hamlet's father, doesn't she?

All the power of which he was so proud cannot save him from dying in shame and disgrace. Rosenberg's ghost is delighted to inform him as he dies that he has been disbarred. The one thing that he feared more than anything has happened. The complete stripping away of all his power and all his show has occurred.

Another historical note: Cohen did die in shame and disgrace. He had lost everything that he had fought for and that mattered so much to him.

There is a moment of reconciliation for Cohen. After his death the Jewish ritual of Kadesh must be performed.  This can be done only with the cooperation of Bélize and Rosenberg's ghost, two individuals who were the enemies of Cohen in life.

Then there's Harper. As a play opens, she's in very bad shape. As it progresses, she continues to decline. Eventually, she enters so severe a hallucinogenic state that she believes she has been transported to a magical Antarctica and is arrested by the police.

But her journey is far from over. While she does fall to this 
level, it appears to be the lowest level. She does not miraculously recover, but she does begin to show progress.

In the meantime, her marriage is going through its own set of transformations. She has gone from very needy but supportive wife, to angry rejected wife, to fearful wife who discovers her husband has homosexual desires, and eventually she even rejects him when she learns he's had a sexual encounter with a man.

We don't know where she will end up. What we do know is that she is off on the journey. At least, she has a chance. At least, she has a choice.

It is interesting that in the play, although everything comes from God, He too is subject to change.  It is essential to the play that we accept the conceit that God himself has become so confused and disgusted that He has abandoned His creation. That's quite a transformation!

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