Ghosts and hallucinations are a recurring feature of the play. We see that Harper becomes slightly deranged (most probably as a result of her excessive pill-taking), developing an imaginary friend named “Mr. Lies” and becoming convinced that there are men with knives lurking in the shadows. Her hallucinations progress to the point where she is convinced she has travelled to Antarctica via her fridge.
Prior Walter is also subject to various apparitions (most likely due to his sickly state and the consequent medication he is placed on). Prior is visited by two Prior Walters of the past. Furthermore, he begins hearing a certain the voice of an angel and witnesses the gradual breakdown of reality around him. One should note that the “hallucinations” he has are often linked to heaven and the impending descent of the angel.
Roy is the third character that goes through a hallucination of sorts. Similar to Prior Walter, Roy sees a ghost. In his case he encounters the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg; an American citizen who, along with her husband Julius, was sentenced to death in 1953 for committing espionage by attempting to leak information regarding the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. It is made apparent that Roy had a decisive role in convicting Ethel and sentencing her to death.
In examining the role of apparition in Angels of America it is important to note the one commonality between those that are subject to the appearances of ghosts or members of the “International Order of Travel Agents”. The one factor that ties these characters together is sickness and, perhaps more importantly, the consequent medication they are prescribed. Realising that each of these characters are fairly sick, one is inclined to attribute their tendency to encounter “ghosts” to their general delirium (as a result of their illness or medication).
However, could we be too hasty and unimaginative in tying the hallucinations to sickness? The apparitions obviously hold significance. Could the world of Mr. Lies, the Angel, the prior Prior Walters, and Ethel Rosenberg symbolise a single, alternate universe? Are these ghosts “real” in the sense that they aren’t merely the product of sickness and heavy medication? The scene with Ethel Rosenberg and Roy is oddly similar to scenes in A Christmas Carol where Ebenezer Scrooge is forced to confront his past. In depicting the appearance of these ghosts, Kushner is effectively blurring the line between the real and the not.