The composer, librettist and director of the in-previews Broadway musical The Capeman appeared on the "Charlie Rose" TV show Jan. 2 describing the emotional core of the show, and responding to criticism that it glorifies a killer.
Like his collaborators Derek Walcott and Mark Morris, composer/lyricist Paul Simon described the show mainly as a series of questions:
"Can you atone for a terrible deed? Who decides [if you can]?"
His musical is the story of Salvador Agron, a gang member who murdered two young people in 1950s Manhattan, then went to prison where he became a poet. The show has prompted discussions on the editorial pages of NY newspapers about whether this is a fit subject for a musical. Relatives of one of Agron's victims protested at one point outside the Marquis Theatre, where the show is in previews for a Jan. 29 opening.
"Has Salvador Agron atoned?" Simon asked rhetorically on the TV show. "We're a very religious country, but we're not a very forgiving country. Can you attain redemption? Is it a possibility?" Walcott, the show's librettist, said Agron's poetry may have been "very banal, very simple," but noted the irony that if Agron had not gone to jail, he might never have become a poet, and may have met the same fate he doled out that night. Noting that The Capeman has a scene in which a practitioner of the Santeria religion predicts to Agron's mother that her son will grow up to be a killer, Walcott asked, "Are our actions predestined? If it [sic] is, can he be forgiven? I don't think human beings can forgive completely. . . Ultimately, only God forgives."