Last Updated November 3, 2023.
In 1977, when the play begins (or chronologically ends), Emma is thirty-eight. We are told she runs a gallery. She and Jerry engage in a multi-year affair, and the play depicts their affair’s demise in reverse. She and Robert, too, have a relationship that has dissipated. There is a sense that their marriage has been lackluster for many years. By the time the affair with Jerry has ended, it seems that Emma has found another lover: Casey. She seems to be searching for intimacy and connection outside of the places she has already found it. In other words, she is seeking validation in her romantic partners but is unable to find it consistently. She holds double standards in terms of betrayal: she tells Jerry that she and Robert will likely separate due to his infidelity over the years. She comically fails to see how hypocritical this take is considering her seven-year-long affair with Jerry. Clearly, Emma is not very content with her life and continually seeks to fill its emptiness.
Jerry is Emma's lover, though their affair of seven years has ended by the start of the play. Jerry is apparently a literary agent and is (or was) the best friend of Emma's husband, Robert. He was the best man at their wedding and has been a close friend of Robert’s for years. According to the final scene, Jerry initiated the affair one evening in 1968 when he drunkenly confessed feelings for Emma. The two shared a second apartment as a meeting point throughout their affair. Jerry did not know that Emma told Robert about the affair, and feels terrible when he discovers Robert has known about it all these years.
Robert is Emma's husband. The couple has two children together, Charlotte and Ned. He is a publisher. Both he and Jerry are forty when the play begins. He comes across as unassuming, and it seems that he has been wronged by his wife’s and friend’s betrayal. Robert and Jerry are longtime friends and recall connecting when they were both editors at a poetry publication. Robert is apparently an impressive squash player, so much so that Jerry avoids playing with him. He found out about the affair in 1973 yet did not disclose anything to Jerry. Since the audience is told that Robert has known about the affair for years, his interactions with Jerry seem all the more pointed and strategic.
Casey is an author that Jerry works with. He has written several novels in the play, with one in particular that Robert dislikes but Jerry and Emma enjoy. He and Emma are rumored to be having an affair, though this is neither confirmed nor denied. Casey only exists in conversation, meaning that he never appears onstage in the play.
Judith is Jerry’s wife. From what we gather in the play, she is oblivious to the affair between Jerry and Emma. She works as a doctor, and Jerry thinks her to be too busy for an affair of her own. She and Jerry have two children together, Sam and Sarah. Judith also never appears onstage but is instead referenced.