Last night BN and I went to Gutenberg College to see their production of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven: a Walking Tour – a dramatic retelling of Dante’s Divine Comedy. I haven’t read this venerable classic, but I will have to pick it up now that I’ve gotten a taste via this modern “exerpt.” The group did a wonderful job with this production, I was very impressed. Gutenberg is housed in a big, old-fashioned building and the play was “staged” in various rooms and hallways, with the 30 or so audience members walking from scene to scene along with the main actors. (We watched the last of 6 performances.)
We started out in the office of psychologist Dan Taey, who appears to be somewhat losing his grip. Virgil, the renowned ancient Roman poet appears and, struggling with the modern doorknob, summons Dr. Taey to go on a journey.
In Hell, a very dark and scary place, the occupants did not seem at all happy but they insisted they wanted to be there because they were free to do what they wanted. A series of characters, each a bit more mentally unstable than the last, talked about their experiences among the living. Finally the Biochemist convinced Dan Taey to put all his trust in science and logic and then introduced a clone, named Kid A, a sort of Frankenstein’s Monster, who was in need of a few vital components. Bio pulled out a knife and was going to harvest these necessities from Taey but Virgil reappeared and rescued him.
Back on the main floor, we entered the dismal realm of Purgatory. Here each character explained what penance he or she had to do to make up for the sins committed in life. One of these, Envious, was played by our friend, MK. In life she had been a client of Dr. Taey, and he reminded her how much progress they’d made on “her issues.” She didn’t seem to care much for that, now her focus was on gathering alms for the poor and she repeatedly asked “dear Virgil” to pray for her. In spite of her blind eyes she was quick to notice Dr. Taey’s watch and perked up significantly – “ooo – is that a Rolex?” Another of his clients, Corina, is hesitant to tell Dr. Taey that she is doing penance for failing to listen to the quiet voice of the Spirit, dismissing it as a hallucination – as Taey had told her to do. Informed that her penance is complete, we followed her up another flight of stairs to the gates of Heaven.
Someone followed us up there – Kid A from the Inferno. She tried to run into Heaven on the heels of Corina, but Saint Peter gently called her back and explained that only one at a time may enter. But, all will be well for Kid A because the Lord of heaven is her advocate and has identified 3 ways in which she is like him – they were each conceived outside of the normal way; each were created for the pleasure of others, he for those in Heaven, she for those in Hell; each spent time in Hell but were not destined to remain. All that was required of Kid A was answering the question – do you want to come in? She said, her one line in the play, “Yes.”
There is very little, if any, biblical basis for the concept of Purgatory, but apparently it was well-established by Dante’s time in the early 1300’s. That actually doesn’t surprise me, because I believe it’s a human tendency to create our own Purgatory right here on earth. We’re control freaks, all of us, and we want to run our own lives like the inmates of Hell who’d deluded themselves into thinking they’d never been happier – or the penitent souls who were unable to give up their heavy burdens and futile quests because they’d have to give up the only thing they had control over. I need to be aware of this, and not live in my self-created Purgatory. I take my cue from Kid A, acknowledge that I am missing vital components, and just say “Yes, Lord.”