Theater review of “All The Adams in The World” at Whitefire Theatre Solofest
Written and performed by Sheila Silver.
Developed and directed by Jessica Lynn Johnson.
Sheila Silver is the mother of an autistic boy, Adam, and this brilliant and inspiring play is the story of her life with him so far.
As Sheila explains during the play, autistic people often speak in metaphors, and so it is no small genius move by Sheila to frame her journey with him around the metaphor of a solo trip down wild river rapids with a wise and supportive guide, Scout.
“All The Adams in The World” follows every chapter of their life. From birth through years of testing and mixed diagnoses, through finally forming a treatment and therapy structure, to finding the right kind of education, summer camps and plane trips, to the many many first steps and courageous moments, make up this wonderfully written and performed epic.
Adam is Hercules, the perfect hero, full of contradictions, multifaceted and, as we travel through their life, clearly imbued with a divine strength. Forging his own brave path through his adventures and becoming all the stronger and wiser because of it.
Sheila is Hera, of course, and Athena combined. Sheila’s love and determination for Adam to thrive is the ultimate mother’s story.
So this classical tale unfolds with warmth, humour, trials and tribulations but with Sheila’s unending positivity and unparalleled determination for them to not just survive this unexpected life, but to thrive. Her other son, Joshua, Adam’s older brother, makes wise and comic appearances. Sweetly anchoring Sheila and finding his own deep love for his younger brother Adam in his own particular way.
All The Adams in The World” is a truly magical play. An epic full of truth, and told in such a clever and compelling way that we come away weeping and cheering and oh so better informed on what having a child with autism really means.
Sheila never whines. She never complains, she never wonders, “why me?” Well not for more than a second anyway, she is only human after all. But even those revelations are so authentically revealed, buoyed by characters from her life, hilariously portrayed, that we feel closer to Sheila as she shows us a little of her darker moments…so incredibly understandable, and profoundly and gently raw.
As a mother of two, I have had my moments I can tell you. But Sheila’s moments are momentously and extraordinarily tougher than any I have had. She went through this alone, her ex-husband emotionally and then quite literally absent. But even through all of that she seems so economical in her anger toward him that I wanted to reach through the screen and embrace her, as I spat in his general direction.
Sheila is a teacher, and seems to have that most mystical and ethereal of teacherisms….an intense and highly developed level of patience. Adam is forged by her love, he is enveloped by it, he is saved by it, he is strengthened by it.
Sheila has moved mountains to give him a free and fabulous life. A life where he has ultimately chosen to live apart from her, in housing designed to give him the fullest life possible. And isn’t that the highest validation of Sheila’s commitment? She has gifted him choice, with every minute of heartache and hair pulling and stress and laughter. She is a goddess and Adam is lucky to be her son…perhaps as lucky as Sheila is to be his mother.