Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 521
Alan Ayckbourn's play Absurd Person Singular takes place at three different Christmas Eve parties in different three couple's kitchens:
This holiday is spent at Sidney and Jane Hopcraft's suburban home. Sidney is intent on impressing their guests so that they might invest in Sidney's grocery store chain—especially banker Ronald Brewster-Wright, who's there with his wife Marion. Also in attendance are Eva and Geoffrey Jackson; she's a nervous wreck, and he's an architect who brags of his extramarital affairs when she's not around.
As the domineering conversation and joke-telling of Dick and Lottie Potter (who we never see) drives more and more party guests into the kitchen, Sidney's treatment of Jane grows increasingly cold. The party runs out of tonic water, and Jane runs out to buy more. When she returns, she's locked out and has to ring the bell to enter through the front. Still trying charm to impress his potential investors, Sidney tells one of the guests that she was a deliveryman.
Sidney begs Ronald for a loan; Ronald's not interested. Geoffrey, meanwhile, asks Ronald to put in a good word for him, job-wise, at the shopping complex that's set to be built in their community. After the party, Sidney explains to Jane that he had to pretend she was a deliveryman to keep up appearances.
The play's second act is set a year after the first. This time, we're in the apartment of Geoffrey and Eva Jackson. She's suicidal. He's angry that the work on his shopping complex is slow-going, and he takes it out on her. Sidney and Jane and Ronald and Marion arrive. Geoffrey's jealous of Sidney's recent successes. Eva tries to stab herself, and Geoffrey leaves to find a doctor.
Eva continues trying to kill herself, but her attempts are repeatedly—and accidentally—thwarted by her party guests. When Eva tries to gas herself in the oven, for example, Jane cleans it for her. When she tries to hang herself, Ronald thinks she's trying to change a light bulb and helps.
Geoffrey finally returns with the doctor to find his house in chaos: Ronald's been electrocuted and Marion's drunk. Eva's singing Christmas carols, and their dog attacked Dick Potter, still unseen, in the living room.
Ronald and Marion host the play's third act, which takes place one year after the second act. Marion's locked herself away in their bedroom to get drunk alone, and Ronald has no idea what to do. Geoffrey and Eva come over for a drink, Marion comes downstairs, and we learn that the roof collapsed on Geoffrey's shopping complex. Sidney and Jane crash the party, and the other guests turn off all the lights and try to hide. The Hopcrofts come in the back door and don't seem to notice that their "friends" were pretending to not be home.
The tides have turned. Geoffrey now desperately wants Sidney to give him a job. Ronald needs the Hopcroft's business at his bank, too. Absurd Person Singular ends with the couples playing a game where Sidney and Jane literally force the other couples to dance for them.
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