Australia, twenty years from now, three fugitives: Créole Jean de Vine, priest, actor, athlete, is lost in his own private hell; Californian Melissa Harries, kept woman, actor, is lost in hers; Texan ‘Rev. Glen W. Beecher III DD', con-man, drug-dealer, sadist, arsonist and murderer, is on the run from the FBI. 'God has told him' the world will end soon, but his 'flock' can buy into eternity ... More
Sea-levels are rising more rapidly than expected and the global climate is becoming less and less predictable. In the early summer of 2031, a cataclysmic month-long weather event trashes Adelaide, South Australia, a low-lying coastal city of 1.5 million people.
Créole Jean (Jon) de Vine, a former actor and Harvard judo champion, now an Episcopalian priest, is among the refugees — again, for as a child he had been displaced by the New Orleans flood of 2005 and the Galveston flood of 2014, and his parents had died in the tsunami that devastated Boston and the rest of the Atlantic coast in 2023. And yet again, in his new parish near Melbourne, a nearby lightning strike reawakens old terrors, and he has an awful vision of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Surely this must be the end of the world …
Half-Chilean Maria Magdalena, a young actress, helps him overcome his distress, and they fall in love and marry a few weeks later. Jon is ordered to take some months’ sick leave from his parish, and they are ecstatic when they are invited to join the small touring Carlton Theatre Company, playing opposite each other as two of the lovers, Lysander and Hermia, in William Shakespeare’s 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream'.
In Hamilton, an important regional city, charismatic Texan ‘Rev. Glen W. Beecher III DD’ is the pastor of his new ‘Universal Church of the Revelation’. God, it seems, has ‘told him’ that the world will end 2000 years after the Crucifixion, on Good Friday in 2033, but that his ‘Hearers’ can be saved by giving all they have to the poor (through the ‘Church’, of course). In fact he is a racist, a drug-dealer, arsonist and murderer, a wanted man on the run from the US authorities. The sole function of his ‘Church’ is to build up a very large retirement fund quickly.
Melissa Harries plays the role of the pastor’s wife ‘Amanda’. She too was an actress, but things went horribly wrong, and for now she seems stuck in a moral vacuum. But one day in Hamilton she recognises media baron and polo player Colin Blackwell, the widowed brother of her former fiancé, who had been killed in a car smash. She clings to Colin as her guide back to the real world. This suits him fine, for he has always had a soft spot for her.
Apart from the thoroughly evil Beecher, the villains include ‘Rambo’, another arsonist and murderer on the run, a vicious, mindless slob who hates everyone with a darker skin than his and everyone higher up the peck order. Beecher coopts him as a bully boy in a campaign against the touring Carlton Theatre Company (they are predominantly Lebanese and therefore non-people), but Rambo makes a fatal mistake when he tackles Jon head-on …
This is a modern-day fable, so naturally virtue triumphs, but the virtuous have their weak spots.
Jon’s latent violent streak surfaces without warning, Maria is ambivalent about her ethnic identity; Melissa has played the kept woman role for so long she has almost lost her real vocation; Colin has played the media baron so long he has almost lost touch with real people in the real world; the Primate (Jon’s boss and Maria’s aunt) covertly ignores some of the basic tenets of her/their religion; her psychiatrist husband unwisely assumes he understands everything about everybody.
And the police, despite their experience, skill, diligence and ingenuity, are forever one step behind Beecher. They even miss the awful climax — although they don’t mind, for in their business climaxes are often very untidy, and they are pleased to avoid most of the potential paperwork. The climax, by the way, occurs just 2000 years after the Crucifixion, but isn’t at all what Beecher had had in mind.
At last Colin and Melissa feel ready for marriage, and the curtain comes down with the final (wedding) scene of 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream'.
And so, good night unto you all!