Character Study

as a seraphim is passionately interested in telling humans everything he knows—whether they want to know it or not. And while he is sincerely trying to bring Peter and Maggie together, he is at the same time madly in love with his counterpart, Liz, a by-the-book seraphim to Michael’s left-brained, throw-the-rule book away mentality. He is spontaneous, knowledgeable, funny and ultimately engagingly vulnerable, with more human traits than angels are believed to have (and likely do not have). He is pure energy onstage, and deftly balances his recommendations and sincere words of guidance to Peter and Maggie, who can’t see or hear him, with sidebar revelations on all important subjects to the audience, who can.

like Michael, has been tasked with bringing Maggie and Peter together. She has the same gregarious spirit as Michael, but is more cautious, more studied, and more focused on her guardian’s role. And though she doesn’t realize it, she is in fact in love with Michael and this is what fuels her lighthearted pique with him—he openly knows, and she doesn’t (a little like Maggie and Peter in reverse, where she is certain and he reluctant). In knowledge she is not only Michael’s equal, she is closer to archangelic promotion because, unlike him, she has never been on probation for any of the violations Michael is constantly piling onto his resumé. But her irritation with Michael vanishes when she finally hears him sing, and from that point their relationship is changed. In the end, Liz and Michael are quite similar, both in temperament and in their passion to serve.

on consecutive days, before the play’s beginning, has had dramatic, life-altering experiences—one in a church, the other in a breakfast shop—that he can neither intellectually explain nor dismiss. In the church of his youth, in which he had not set foot in years, he has had a Pentecostal experience of such inexplicable beauty he knows he will never be the same. The following morning, with that joyful and powerful sense of Presence still intact, he witnesses a scene in a coffee shop that steps up or follows upon the previous night’s drama: for the span of a few minutes he sees life on two levels simultaneously, the one physical and mundane, the other at a higher frequency and spectacularly loving, in near parallel above it (*see material footnote at end which cite C.S. Lewis allusion to this phenomenon in his book, The Great Divorce, and Dr. David R. Hawkins writings on the same personal experience in The Eye of the I, among others).

And now Peter, this same week, has the woman he has been deeply attracted to for the several years of their friendship in his studio as the model for a painting she has commissioned him to do. She is some fifteen years his junior and also attracted to him, which he struggles with to some degree but, as much, having once been deeply hurt in a failed engagement he is wary of reliving that experience again. And all the while he is in this state of near-ecstasy which he wishes he could shout to the world, but keeps tempered, or in check, for fear of appearing effusive.

Peter earns his living, just, as an artist of recognized talent in the community he calls home.

is one of those perhaps rare people, raised in an atmosphere of privilege, for whom the advantage of great wealth has not diminished her understanding of what is important, and her sense of humanity. She is a writer and student of the arts, enrolled in an M.F.A. program she has nearly completed and holds a high G.P.A. in. She was exposed to two religious traditions in her youth and now holds them both, as well as any diligent concept of a Supreme Being, in abeyance. She mildly accepts the assertion that agnosticism is the only reasonable and acceptable intellectual position one can have. At the same time, there are people in her circle of family and friends who profess a sense of faith to one degree or another and she holds these people dear—and among these is Peter who has never expressed his feelings about faith until now, when he has had this transcendent spiritual experience.

She has been attracted to Peter for the better part of their friendship. And wanting to finally know there might be a reciprocal attraction, she has commissioned him to do this seductive painting of her. As fate (and we might say Grace) would have it, she is immersed in this time of Peter’s deeply intimate personal revelation regarding the inner Presence we all possess, and she is taken somewhat aback by it all. Yet her abiding attraction to Peter pulls her forward and, despite her misgivings about things divine she returns to learn more leading to her own change of heart.

we first see delivering the prologue and play’s central themes in archangelic garb—a white artist’s or supple linen jacket, white pants and shirt—or a robe with a colorful sash. He is Michael’s “guardian angel” and Julia’s counterpart, confidante and lover. In angelic status he is as far above Michael as the sun is to the moon. In knowledge, the same proportional relationship holds true. But in temperament, where their respective “wings” are involved, Victor and Michael are two sides of the same coin: gregarious, crafty, and vulnerable in their invulnerability.

with Victor is one of the fist actors to appear on stage, and she steps onto it like a former Oscar winner at that show, brimming with a self-confidence tempered by genuine warmth towards the audience.

Opposite Victor in the play she appears his equal, but is cooler, calmer and more composed. And while she genuinely loves Victor she is, like Liz, not above having a little good-natured fun at her mate’s expense. Julia is unflappable, at all times in command, yet is obviously and deeply enamored with her archangelic counterpart.

is the critical analyst and empirical inquisitioner, that part of the human condition that holds itself in the most esteemed position, believing there is nothing above itself or higher than mental reasoning. That is his role on a thematic level. On the theatrical level, the professor is sacks of fun and will likely steal many of the scenes he shares— because he represents all of us in a sense, and identification with his vulnerabilities and vanity, if only on a subconscious level, will make us like him in all his wonderful pomposity.

is the more emotional side of suspended or non-belief in things spiritual— those feeling people who have been so hurt in their lives or have seen the world of hurt around them to the extent that they cannot find alignment with the thought of a Creator who allows it all to exist without intervening (and unless one has a child’s or rocklike faith and/or accepts the concept of reincarnation and its ramifications, or has had an experience of the divine, it can be difficult). In Mia’s case her unwillingness is both personal and extra-personal, but at this point in her life her agnosticism is fueled and underscored more by the loss of a lifelong mate whom she cherished, and who cherished her. Yet, and yet, an ember still glows within her reflective of that childlike condition that wants to believe, and that is all that is needed for her to silently voice a few words of the prayer of faith when she hears it said onstage, and in that moment her world changes: God touches her and her sadness turns to inexplicable peace, into a disorienting joy of such immensity that Michael is able to whisk her from the audience into her new life of laughter and felicity with life’s dance.

is based on the life and work of a Franciscan priest, Matthew Swizdor, who was stationed during much of the later part of his ministry in Auburn, New York. He was an anomaly in the Roman Catholic Church, a priest who held to many of the church’s dogmatic teachings, yet departed from them in one critical area: in the distinguishing of infant Baptism as ritual from the Pentecostal experience of Baptism as transformation, requiring maturity and an understanding of egoistic surrender and/or repentance. His masses had an air of simple devotion, and a cassette player with a much-used spiritual song was employed as backdrop to the Pentecostal invitation that concluded his services. In the play he is in his sixties, speaks with a mild European accent reflective of his native Poland, and has a commanding and genial presence.

As S. Paul in the Prelude, he plays that historical character with a mixture of gravity and seriousness that fades (quickly) to Hollywood studio executive discussing his latest effort with an able protégé. He speaks in a befitting Irish brogue, unlike his sagacious counterpart who is, every impressive inch, a Londoner.

in the Prelude appears as a young Shakespeare on the cusp, not of becoming a teenager but, of a pre-teen going in the other direction. With the aptitude of his mature former life still in his consciousness, he is a wonder to behold as he mixes it up with S. Paul, blending his worldly view with a respectful deference that leaves his stature undiminished and sense of equality intact.

As the Choir Boy later in the play, he barely gets out the word “Ave” a second time before Michael, singing through him, shows what happens when angels through little children give us moments of sheer beauty. 

*Near the end of his book The Great Divorce (which has no thematic connection to marriage, but is a reference to the separation of our higher spiritual nature from the physical one, which he and other metaphysical writers maintain is the real “fall” of humanity, severing its divine connection), C.S. Lewis alludes to the two and simultaneous levels of existence Peter witnessed in the breakfast shop, positing a scene in which godlike beings look at miniature images of themselves on an earthly chessboard.

Dr. David R. Hawkins in his book, The Eye of the I, described his own similar experience of witnessing the two levels this way: “Human appearance has taken on a whole new aura. The One Self shines forth through everyone’s eyes. A radiance shines forth from everyone’s face; everyone is equally beautiful. More difficult to describe is the interaction among people…there is obvious love among everyone. Their speech, however, has changed so that all conversation has become loving and peaceful. It is as though there are two different levels of consciousness going on, coming out of the same scenario of form and movement; two different scripts are being spoken via the same words…At the same time it is clear that the lower selves of the people are unaware of the communication simultaneously going on with their higher selves.” (from the Prologue)

At the time of his transformation Dr. Hawkins was an agnostic who, in his own words, had reached the depths of despair and physically was near death when inwardly he spoke the words, “If there is a God, I ask Him to help me now.” In that instant his awakening to the Presence took place changing his former views, restoring him to health and inspiring a series of magnificent books.

Available at: