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Synopsis

Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson's Lost in the Stars

 

The black priest Stephen Kumalo travels from his home in Ndotsheni to Johannesburg to retrieve his sister Gertrude, said to be involved in shameful behavior, and to check on his son, Absalom, who left home to work in the mines nearly a year ago. In Johannesburg, Stephen is greeted warmly by his white friend Arthur Jarvis, to the dismay of Arthur’s father, James, who believes in the separation of the races. Stephen begins to search for Absalom and learns that his son has fallen in with a bad crowd.

Meanwhile, Absalom and his friends are planning a robbery. His companions pressure him to bring a gun. Absalom is reluctant, but he sees the scheme as the only way out of an impoverished life in Shanty Town — not only for himself, but also for his lover Irina and their unborn child. Arriving to rob a house they believe to be empty, Absalom and his friends are surprised by Arthur Jarvis, and Absalom inadvertently kills him.

Absalom and his friends are taken into custody for the crime. Absalom’s accomplices have agreed among themselves to lie, but Absalom insists on telling the truth, despite the fact that there is no hard proof of his involvement. Stephen’s brother, John, also urges Absalom to lie, but he will not be shaken. Stephen visits James Jarvis to ask that he intercede for Absalom, but Jarvis refuses.

At the trial, Absalom’s friends deny involvement in the robbery and murder. Absalom tells the truth and is sentenced to death. Stephen, disgraced and despairing, resigns his pastorate, against the pleading of his congregation. As he awaits the hour of his son’s death, James Jarvis comes to call. He has realized that his grief and Kumalo’s grief are the same. The two fathers forgive each other and then keep vigil together.

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