The Bedbug begins outside a state-owned department store in a typical Russian city. Peddlers walk up and down the theater aisles hawking buttons, apples, balloons, underwear, and so on. Ivan Prisypkin enters, enthralled with the variety of merchandise for sale. Ivan is an ordinary worker, recently enfranchised by the 1917 Revolution. Anxious to possess goods, he buys ignorantly, comically mistaking brassieres for “aristocratic bonnets.” His future mother-in-law Rosalie tries to restrain his extravagance, but her neighbor Oleg assures her that workers are now entitled to the fruits of successful revolution. Ivan’s shopping spree is halted by an encounter with Zoya, his former girlfriend. When Zoya rebukes Ivan for his fickleness, he blithely admits that he deserted her for a smarter, more bosomy, and better-dressed daughter of the bourgeoisie, Elzevir. Zoya attempts to argue, but Rosalie attacks her. A militiaman hastily intervenes as the scene ends.
The next scene occurs inside the hostel where Ivan, Zoya, and other workers live; machinists and clerks ridicule Ivan’s recent infatuation with cologne and neckties. They discover a box of business cards upon which Ivan has printed a French version of his name, Pierre Skripkin. When a resident enters and announces that Ivan has quit his job to marry a shopowner’s daughter, the group collectively laments Ivan’s loss of revolutionary ideals. Ivan returns, sporting patent leather shoes and carrying packages. While his peers watch in disgust, Ivan takes dancing lessons from Oleg. Suddenly another resident bursts in with news that Zoya shot herself. As the workers rush out to learn her fate, Ivan collects his belongings and hails a cab to take him to the Renaissance home.
The stage for scene 3 is Rosalie’s beauty shop, gaily decorated for the wedding of Ivan and Elzevir. As master of ceremonies, Oleg proclaims the wedding of Ivan and Elzevir the image of Labor uniting with Capital in socialist society. An usher, proletarian in sympathies and taste, increasingly resents the opulent revelry and starts a fight with an intoxicated guest. When a general melee erupts, Elzevir backs into a stove and accidentally knocks it over: First her veil, then the entire room, catches fire.
Scene 4 is brief. Firemen sift through the now-darkened stage and report to the chief. The fire raged uncontrollably; all the wedding guests...
(The entire section is 985 words.)