Actually, the tearing down of a statue glorifying the treasonous Confederacy was celebrated nightly for a few weeks over a year ago right here in the City of Falls Church. It came with the Helen Hayes-award winning production of Tony Kushner’s musical, “Caroline or Change,” performed at the redoubtable Creative Cauldron’s cozy venue on S. Maple St.
That play was a quasi-autobiographical work of the Tony Award winning playwright, telling the story of persisting racism in Louisiana surrounding the period of President Kennedy’s assassination. The older lead character in the play is Caroline, and she’s a maid in a home of white folks in Lake Charles. She works hard to earn a pittance that she needs as a single mom to feed and clothe her children.
While the play honors her, her perseverance and high moral standards, it is also about her teenage children, who have greater aspirations for their own lives, and in the context of all that, the news comes of the toppling of a Confederate war statue downtown. A beautiful artistic creation, the musical was magnificently performed here. Perhaps not so ironically, the playwright is even more famous for his two-part drama, “Angels in America,” which is enjoying a huge revival in London now, in which the fact-based character of the late Roy Cohn is so deftly presented on the stage as a creepy and thoroughly immoral and self-serving New York lawyer-thug-coward-crook.
Cohn was the attorney for the infamous Sen. Joe McCarthy’s committee during his trumped-up communist witch hunts that drove the country into an unprecedented level of paranoia of the early 1950s. This is the same Cohn who later became Donald Trump’s attorney. It is instructive to see how Cohn’s unscrupulous practices as portrayed in the play informed Trump’s own ripoff-based real estate business model in those days. When, despite all the stiffing and deceits Trump still went bankrupt in the early 1990s, it was the post-Cold War Russians who bailed him out but at no mean cost, accounting for his political prejudices to this day.
We strongly recommend the six-part HBO Films and Mike Nichols’ produced-directed movie version of “Angels in America” to anyone who hasn’t seen it, or hasn’t seen it in a while. In it, Kushner the playwright captures Cohn, and by association, Trump, perfectly. The actor Al Pacino won an Emmy for his gritty portrayal of Cohn, as did Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Mary-Louise Parker in their roles. It is a lengthy treatment because that’s what it took, Kushner says, to permit his characters to credibly change, through his Cohn character was not among them. The play is about the impact of AIDS crisis in New York in the mid-1980s, but its relevance to the present, and even to little old Falls Church is stunning.
Yes, we repudiate everything that both Trump and the Confederacy stand for. Simply put, one cannot wave a Confederate flag and be an American patriot.