Father insists that he could not have known Step-Daughter worked for Madame Pace. Step-Daughter sadly recalls how Mother would have to mend the frocks she tore, thinking she was sewing for the family when Step-Daughter was paying for the repairs. Father adds that the day he met Step-Daughter at Pace's, Mother arrived just then. "Almost in time" cries Step-Daughter treacherously.

Father elaborates the tragedy in their drama. Man believes his many-sided conscience to be unitary, that he is one, unique person in all his acts. He tragically perceives that this is not true when suspended, or caught on a hook. All of him was not in "that act"; it is unjust for his entire existence to be judged and summed up in that deed. Step-Daughter surprised him in a place where she should not have known him, where he could not have existed for her. She attaches a reality to him he could have never assumed.

Father then gestures to the position of the Son. The Son protests that they leave him alone. Step-Daughter asks if the Manager has noted how she fixes him with her look of scorn. He must see the scenes where the Son cast them out of his house in his tyranny. The Son implores the Manager to understand his position—that he has never known any of them. He is an "unrealized character" and asks to be left out of the production. Father argues that the Son's cruel aloofness is a "situation in itself." To Step-Daughter's annoyance, Mother starts weeping. Father continues, saying that the Son is really the "hinge" of the action. The Boy is so humiliated because the Son, mortified at being brought into a home out of charity.

The Manager is sure he will cut him out, since boys are nuisances. Father replies that the Boy and the Child disappear soon. When Mother re-enters their house, she will superimpose the outside family on the original. Because this family is foreign to the household, the Child dies, the Boy meets tragedy, and Step-Daughter flees. The remaining trio find themselves strange to one another. They live the revenge of the Demon of Experiment. They lack humility, having failed to respect their specific reality before God and created a reality that does not exist, and thus must fall.

The Manager takes interest. Still unconvinced by the Characters, he asks if they are amateur actors and offers to give them the address of an author. Father insists that he serve as their author. They decided to sketch the work as the Characters play it scene-by-scene. The Manager gives the Actors a twenty-minute break and retires with the Characters to his office. Left on-stage, the Actors express their disapproval of this "rank madness." The Manager is behaving "like the improvisers." In his vanity, he fancies himself an author.


As noted above, Father and Step-Daughter spend the act appealing to the Manager as their would-be author, posing him as their judge, witness, and arbitrator. The final scenes of Act I secure him in the author-function. As with before, however, the Father continues to figure most prominently as the author's double, providing an exposition of the family's drama. He does so perhaps most explicitly at the end of his pitch when he traces its narrative arc: the return of the Mother and the stepchildren super-impose a surrogate family on the original one. Because it remains external to the household, it must disappear, leaving the trio of Father, Mother, and Son. The stepfamily's elimination, however, does not reconstitute some original happy home; the remaining co- habitants remain as strange to each other as they have always been. Like the Step-Daughter, Father "gives away" the Characters' story in trying to get it staged. Again, what is being put on stage here is less a "dramatic story" but the apparatus, the theater, that would stage it.

Father sells the Manager on their drama with the scene around which it crystallizes, the moment that most readily lends itself to the stage: the encounter between Father and Step-Daughter. Here, it is imagined in exposition. In the following act, we will witness its botched rehearsal. The Father offers an existentialist interpretation of this trauma. For him, its tragedy inheres in man's belief in his unitary being. He only perceives this once caught in an act, so to speak, that determines him entirely. Judged by another, he appears to himself in alienated form, suspended in a reality that he should have known. The Step-Daughter should not have seen the Father in Pace's room and he should not have become real to her. The Father's suspension as pervert precisely establishes him as an immortal Character. As he will relate in Act II, the Character is more true, real, and live than man because it remains fixed in its horrible fate.

The Father then attempts to elaborate the role of the Son. The taciturn Son appears bored, humiliated, and resistant both on the stage and within the Characters' drama. He will participate in neither the new household nor that household's would-be stage début. Thus he protests that he is but an "unrealized character" with little part in their drama. The Father and Step- Daughter argue otherwise. Indeed, as Father notes, his aloofness is its own situation, one that makes him the hinge of their drama. The Son's aloofness will remove the surrogate family from the household. Moreover, the Step-Daughter makes clear that she and the Son are structurally linked and her look of scorn fixes him in his shame. As we will see in Act III, her presence on the scene requires that he remain as well.

Finally, note how the conclusion of Act I would have the so-called reality of the spectacle invade that of the audience just as the Characters have appeared among the living Actors. The agreement of the Manager concludes the recount of the Characters' tale—a recount that again plays more like storytelling than drama. The group's retirement to his office breaks the frame, leaving the audience with the actors who had come to serve as the Characters' audience. Their chatter, in which they jeer at the Manager's authorial pretentious, complain that this breaking of theatrical convention will reduce them to the level of the improvisers, and would add an additional sense of reality to the scene. The breaking of the frame and staging of a scene within the on-stage audience would ratify what we saw as real. The real-time pause, delimiting both the interruption of the action and the intermission, similarly attempts to fold stage reality into that of the audience's proper.