Act One Synopsis by Don Mowatt


Dr. Carl Jung has had a powerful and continuing dream of a patient from England brought to his care. The man, known only as Pilgrim, maintains he has lived many lives, some as a man, some as a woman, for nearly a thousand years. Now he wants to die. The dream is so powerful and insistent in Jung's consciousness that Pilgrim comes alive and interacts with the other patients, attendants and doctors at the clinic. He dominates Jung's personal relationship with his family and especially Jung's faithful wife, Emma.

In Jung's dream, Pilgrim is brought to the Burghölzli Clinic in Zurich by his patroness and friend, Lady Sybil Quartermaine, who pleads with Jung to understand and believe the strange tales Pilgrim will tell him.

The appearance of Pilgrim sets in motion tensions between Jung and his superior, Furtwängler, on the most effective ways to treat mental illness. Their disagreements disrupt the routine lives of the other patients who see Pilgrim as a hope, a way out of the confines of the clinic. And Jung’s revolutionary methods unsettle the stability of his family. Their equilibrium is further disturbed by the sudden invasion of a former patient turned therapist, Antonia Wolff, who has become Jung’s lover.

Among the patients in the clinic most affected by this dream, is the Russian aristocrat and ballerina Blavinskaya, who believes she comes from the moon. Her clinical attendant is Dora, a simple Swiss villager, who has developed a very close bond with the ballerina. Dora's counterpart, on staff, is the orderly-nurse Kessler, a very real member of the clinic, who drops in and out of Jung's dream world, like many of the others at Burghölzli. In the dream, he is in charge of Pilgrim's daily routine and has also developed a personal attachment to his charge.

The struggle by Emma to secure the bonds of her marriage intensifies. She learns of the infidelity of Jung with Antonia Wolff while she herself is pregnant with another of Carl's children. The struggle for life is then fought on the domestic front as well as in the clinic.