Act 1 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 588

Teresa, a woman who is separated from her husband and living alone, has put an advertisement in the newspaper to rent a room in her house. Elena, a college student, comes to look at the room. Elena has been living in her aunt and uncle’s house while going to college, but their children are too noisy and she can’t study, which is why she wants to move. Elena is from the country and doesn’t have much money, so she is willing to do light housework in exchange for the room.

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Teresa soon begins talking incessantly about herself, explaining every detail of her marriage, while Elena listens politely, insisting that she is interested. Teresa explains that she had in fact put three different advertisements in the paper: one to rent out the room, one to sell an antique rosewood sideboard, and one to sell her house in the country. She says that she is married but that she and her husband are legally separated. She mentions that she had a terrible childhood because her father claimed that she was actually the child of his brother and so did not consider her to be his child. She was raised in her grandparents’ house, where she lived with her parents and her brother, but her father and brother eventually moved to America. She couldn’t stand living with her mother any more and ran away from home at the age of twenty to live in Rome. She soon found work as an extra in the movies at Cinecittà, the location of the Italian film industry. There she met Lorenzo, who happened to be on the set one day with a friend. Teresa and Lorenzo spent their first three days together in Teresa’s apartment, doing nothing but sleeping and making love. But on the third day, Lorenzo went down to the store to buy cigarettes and didn’t come back.

After Lorenzo disappeared, Teresa quit working for the film industry and got a job at a hair salon. One day, six months later, Lorenzo happened to walk into the salon. Teresa asked why he had never returned from going to the store for cigarettes, and he explained that he had run into a friend and forgotten all about her; then, by the time he remembered her, it was too late at night. The next day, his mother wanted him to visit her in the country; on the way back to Rome, he was in a car accident and injured his shoulder. Teresa assumed he was telling her ‘‘a pack of lies’’ but cried and begged him to stay with her anyway.

Teresa and Lorenzo soon moved in together. Before long, they got married because she thought she was pregnant, but it turned out that she wasn’t. Teresa then learned that Lorenzo was actually very rich, although he lived like a poor university student. They began to spend his money thoughtlessly and recklessly, and he began collecting paintings, motorcycles, and cars.

Teresa goes on to describe a marriage in which Lorenzo continually criticized her, left her for days at a time, and forgot to come home any time he ran into a friend. Teresa also describes physical fights between them, in which he would hit her and she would bite him. But she also insists that their marriage was the happiest time of her life. Finally, Teresa cheated on Lorenzo, sleeping with his friend Mario. Lorenzo left her after coming home to find her in bed with Mario.

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Act 2 Summary