A synopsis of the play by Luigi Pirandello

This document was originally published in Minute History of the Drama. Alice B. Fort & Herbert S. Kates. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1935. p. 125.

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A STOCK company under the direction of their Manager and with the assistance of the Prompter and the Property Man is about to rehearse a play. Since there is a dearth of good French comedies, they have to fall back on a comedy by Pirandello, which, the Manager admits, is, as usual, quite incomprehensible. Just as rehearsal starts the Door Man interrupts. He is followed by a queer assortment of Characters who announce that they are looking for an author.

It appears that the author whose imagination has conceived them has decided against putting them in a drama. Their only chance to live is to find some author who is willing to put them in a play. The bewildered Manager finally consents to let the Characters live out their own story on the stage, while the Prompter takes down the parts in shorthand and the stock company stands round to pick up suggestions for proper interpretation. The action proceeds accompanied by the attempts of the harassed Manager to keep it within the selective and arbitrary requirements of the stage, and by the insistent endeavors of the Characters to act out the whole of their internal struggle.

The Machiavellian brain of the Father has conceived the idea of sending his wife away with his secretary, since the two are obviously mentally and spiritually mated. He thinks to watch the experiment from a bystander's position. However, he soon loses sight of the artificially created Family who, after the death of the Man, are in dire poverty. The comely elder daughter falls into the hands of a modern Procuress, and the Father renews his contract with the Family through an assignation with this girl. When he learns their circumstances, the Father insists that the Mother and her three illegitimate children come home with him.

The legitimate Son, grown to manhood, scorns them all. The Mother, on the contrary, has eyes only for her legitimate Son, and, driven by his coldness, attempts suicide in the garden fountain.

When the Son runs to rescue her, he sees the body of the little four-year-old Sister in the fountain while the fourteen-year-old Brother stands by staring at it with a look of madness in his eyes. Then before anyone can interfere the Boy has slipped behind a tree and shot himself.

The Manager is inclined to think that this will make a fine climax to an impressive play until he discovers that it was not pretense but reality. In disgust he exclaims: "To Hell with it! I've lost a whole day over these people, a whole day!"

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