Vera and John are lounging in their summer house on a July weekend, playing a game of one-upmanship, comparing how much they hate one another and loosely planning to kill their weekend houseguests, Gale and Manny. The fuddy duddy pair of guests are easy targets for their hosts’ scathing hostility, but beneath their middle-class aspirations lurk hidden passions: Gale desperately declares love for Vera, but emotions confuse the highly verbal and intellectual Vera, who ultimately prefers Gale to play the submissive to her dominating contempt. Manny, in turn, convulses from the memory of the abuse he received as a child after Vera’s husband, John, mocks the women’s supposed lesbianism by seducing her. The loathsome Vera proposes an insane contest of misery in which she tastes each of the others’ tears; the bitterest, she says, will win her hand. Manny “wins” and Vera proposes that they swap mates for six months and meet back at her unfinished winter house. Act Two takes place six months later in January, and the four have been affected by more than the punishing weather. Each has been stricken with a debilitating accident or disability: Vera is in a body cast; Manny is partially deaf; John is a multiple amputee from a car accident, and Gale is blind and half-mad. There is nothing to eat, nothing to drink but bottled water, and no facilities in the unfinished, snow-bound skeleton of a house. In the Jacobean extremity of their suffering, and having proved that life is nothing but a bitter joke, the two couples repent their evil ways and skeptically pray for love to return and once again grace their lives.
THE HOUSEGUESTS was first produced in New York City in 1993 by Theater for the New City. Directed by Tom Gladwell. Sets by Chris Fields. Props by Myrna Duarte. Costumes by David Zinn. The stage manager was Jason Knapp. The cast was:
Vera: Birgit Darby
Gale: Melissa Hurst
John: Tom Ledke
Manny: Albert Macklin
THE HOUSEGUESTS earned Harry Kondoleon his second Obie Award for playwriting in 1993.
New York Times review by Wilborn Hampton, May 29, 1993
Dramatists Play Service, 1998
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