As is immediately clear, only two Characters are particularly bent on the realization of their drama: the philosophizing Father and the impudent Step- Daughter. Whereas the former seeks the drama's production to expiate his guilt, perhaps dishonestly, the latter seeks vengeance. Bitterly warring against each other, they deliver their competing versions drama to the company. Note how Pirandello breaks with the well-made play and its general dependence on linear narration. The Step-Daughter begins by interrupting the Father's speeches with a treacherous parody of affection, filial and otherwise. She gives away the end of their situation right from the beginning: the children will die and she will flee.

Seductive and exhibitionistic, the Step-Daughter then erupts into a cabaret- style song and dance of "Prenez garde à Tchou-Tchin-Tchou." The third line of the song, which urges its listeners to beware of the wily Chinese, seems especially significant for our purposes. The Chinese have "put writing everywhere" from Shanghai to Peking. Though this reading is speculative, the line appears to recall the common fantasy among early twentieth-century avant- garde artists of the Chinese ideogram as incarnating form itself, much as Pirandello's Characters do for the company. In any case, this interruption, featuring the Step-Daughter as spectacle on a suddenly erected "second stage," establishes the players as the Characters' aroused audience. As we will see, the daughter is characterized by a love for both the spectacle of her drama and herself as that spectacle's object. In contrast to the Father more cerebral schematization of their tale, she will repeatedly conjure the traumatic scene around which the family's situation crystallizes—her sexual encounter with the Father. She will call up the blue envelope, the table, and, most importantly, the screen behind which she can pose. Later, we will see the Step- Daughter obsess more explicitly over her self-image.

Against the Father and the Step-Daughter, the Mother figures as a witness or spectator internal to the Characters' drama. As the Father notes, her grieving presence marks the fact that a drama has taken place among the Characters. Wrapped in widow's weaves, she will bear and manifest the anguish in the family drama, releasing it in her terrible cry. We will elaborate the function of the grieving mother below. Note here how the Father, bent on his production, is eager to turn her into spectacle. Cruelly he subjects her to the company's guise, lifting her veil so they can look at her. He then quickly sketches her function: the Mother is a mother above all rather than a woman. As we will see, one of the primary points of contention among the Characters themselves is the Step-Daughter and Father's relentless exhibition, their insistence on acceding to stage life and staging a disgrace that the others would keep from the spotlight.