Transpositions is pleased to announce that, as of today, Cole Matson is joining our rotation of regular contributors. Welcome to the team, Cole!
In Keith Bunin’s play The World Over, Adam is a castaway who has grown up alone on an island, without a history – but with a sense of destiny. When he is finally rescued, a Balladeer claims that a ring which Adam wears is similar to that of the Lost Prince of Gildoray, the hero of a children’s story who was taken from his kingdom at birth, and will one day return to reclaim his throne, and overthrow its evil usurper.
Adam awakens to his destiny: he is the Lost Prince of Gildoray, and he must save his people. He is not dissuaded by the Balladeer’s insistence that Gildoray is fictitious. He must seek the world over for his lost kingdom.
In his search, he finds and loses a wife and children, and finds and loses his kingdom: Gildoray existed, but was destroyed by a flood. Alone, Adam wanders, wearing the pendant of his dead wife, until he is too tired to wander anymore.
He falls between two battle lines of a civil war, and refuses to move. He tells his story to the warring monarchs, showing them his pendant. From the opposing armies step a young man and woman, wearing identical pendants, which they were found wearing as infants. They are Adam’s two lost children, believed dead.
The two monarchs, moved, agree to unite their kingdoms for one day, as the country Adamus, with Adam as its king. Thus, for a moment, he will finally have his own kingdom, and rest together with his family.
At the end of the day, while Adam’s children sleep on his breast, Adam addresses the earth. ‘The earth is a traveller herself,’ he says, ‘who must be lonely and tired, never able to rest. She must long for someone who can give her peace.’
Adam reaches out his hand, and holds it to the earth. He pats her warm, weary ground, and says:
‘I’m here. I’m here.’
When I saw this play in October 2002, I wept for half an hour afterwards. I wept on the lead actor, Justin Kirk’s, shirt. I wept on the playwright.
I was pierced by the purity of Adam’s faith, by his unfailing belief that his kingdom existed, and by his unending devotion to saving his people, despite a world which told him he was chasing a fairy-tale. Here was a character utterly untainted by cynicism, and I gasped at the beauty of such powerful innocence. I was overwhelmed with joy to experience such a person, whose life was total self-giving, who even at the end of his life reached out to the very dust of the earth, comforting the soil from which his body was made. The cup of his love overflowed until love was spilling out of his entire being. It flowed through his hand, through the earth, through the boards of the theatre, into my seat, and poured out into the tears that ran down my face. My heart broke, and I sobbed with joy.
I had touched a live wire of love, running through the play, and it shocked my soul. Through Adam, I not only experienced the playwright’s love, and the actor’s, but I loved them in return, and loved all those who have been Adam to me, and to whom I have been Adam. Not least the true Adam, who spent His life in love for us who are earthly. As artists, I believe and know that when we love each other through our art – and when we are loved by others through art – we can shock each other’s souls.
Photo credit: Joan Marcus.