Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 477
First Applicant, Jack Smith, an unemployed house painter. He is proud of his profession, his union membership, and his Italian heritage. He recounts an occasion when, lacking direction in his life, he mentioned to his priest that he might like to join a monastery but received no reply.
Second Applicant, Jane Smith, an unemployed floor washer. She is of Jewish-Irish descent and has been washing floors for twenty years. She feels abandoned by her deceased husband.
Third Applicant, Richard Smith, an unemployed bank president. During his job interview, he flaunts his education, social status, and previous employment. Later, he reveals that he lost his job because of an unexplainable and uncontrollable feeling of panic that has incapacitated him.
Fourth Applicant, Mary Smith, an unemployed lady’s maid. During her job interview, she brags about her family origins and the aristocratic families for whom she has worked. On the city streets, however, she becomes completely disoriented and unable to find her way.
Hal, a television ratings service employee in his late twenties or early thirties. He is cynical in outlook and enjoys tormenting George, his supervisor, with whom he feels himself to be in competition. He wants to begin a relationship with his coworker, Susan.
Susan, a television ratings service employee in her early twenties. She is engaged in an affair with her supervisor, George, who is married, but flirts with Hal. After she agrees to go to a movie with Hal, she still treats George with excessive tenderness. She is given to inexplicable fits of hysterical laughter and is in therapy.
George, a television ratings service supervisor, forty-three years old. He competes with Hal for Susan’s affections, drawing attention to his greater tact and life experience, but calls off his affair with Susan after she decides to go out with Hal. He telephones his wife to tell her that he will be coming home after all, only to be greeted with incredulity. Immediately after calling off his assignation with Susan, he chokes on a chicken bone. When he recovers, he returns to his competitive stance with respect to Hal and tries to insinuate himself into Hal’s date with Susan.
The Motel-Keeper, who is represented on stage by a giant papier-mâché puppet. She spouts clichés about how “homey” the rooms of her motel are and describes in great detail the various consumer catalogs from which she has ordered its decorations.
The Man and
The Woman, guests staying at the motel, also represented by giant puppets. They undress, use the bathroom, make love, dance, and destroy their room to the accompaniment of the television set and loud rock music. After attacking the Motel-Keeper herself and ripping off her arms and head, they exit through the theater’s aisles.
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