- A squeaky clean Ivy League graduate who works as a screenwriter. Austin has a wife and children in Northern California, but is working at his mother's house in Southern California while she is away in Alaska. By all accounts he is a success.
in-depth analysis of Austin.
- Austin's brother. Lee is a beer-swilling desert rat and petty thief who has come to their mother's house to loot the neighbors of household appliances. He is the exact opposite of his brother in looks, sensibility, and degree of success.
in-depth analysis of Lee.
- A slick Hollywood producer. While Shepard's characterization of Saul could easily have descended into parody, Saul remains real all the way through the play. He is as sincere as anyone who is motivated only by profit can be.
in-depth analysis of Saul Kimmer.
- An absurdist vision of a powerless mother. Mom thinks Picasso is coming to town and quietly asks Austin not to kill Lee.
in-depth analysis of Mom.
The "Old Man"
- Austin and Lee's father. Though the "old man" does not himself appear in the play as a character, his influence and presence haunts the brothers and drives much of the play's events and the motivations of its characters.