Summary

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1284

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Act I
Scene i takes place at 3:00 a.m. Angel, who is drunk, is being helped home to Guy’s apartment by Guy and Leland, a young man who happened to be passing them on the street. Angel’s boyfriend, Nick, an Italian gangster, has just gotten married and has broken off his relationship with her. During her nightclub performance at the Cotton Club, which Nick was attending, Angel interrupted her dance routine to yell and throw things at him from the stage. As a result, she has been fired, as has her friend Guy, who worked as a costume designer for the club. Guy’s neighbor, Delia, awakened by the commotion, comes into his apartment to see what has happened. Delia, a social worker, is trying to organize the opening of a family planning clinic in Harlem. Guy explains that his dream is to get a job as costume designer for the celebrated African- American singer and dancer Josephine Baker, who is living in Paris.

Scene ii takes place that Sunday afternoon. Since Angel had been living in an apartment paid for by Nick, Guy offers to let her live with him for a while. He doesn’t tell her that he, too, has been fired, for fear of worrying her. Delia comes in to see how Angel is doing. Their friend Sam, a well-respected doctor at the Harlem Hospital, also stops by. He has just delivered twins and offers them all a drink in celebration. Sam, Delia, and Guy leave to go out for dinner, while Angel, still too hung over to eat, stays behind. Looking out the window, she sees Leland, whom she does not remember from the night before. After he explains that he helped Guy take her home, she suggests they go for a walk together the following Sunday.

Scene iii takes place the following Wednesday afternoon. Angel comes home to Guy’s apartment, having spent the whole day walking around Harlem, trying without luck to get a new job as a nightclub singer. Guy returns home and tells her that Nick has set up an audition for her at a club owned by his friend Tony T. Angel and Guy get ready to attend a party in honor of the poet Langston Hughes, who has been out of town. Meanwhile, in Delia’s apartment, Delia and Sam work together on preparing her speech to convince a local church to support the opening of a family planning clinic.

Scene iv takes place the following Sunday evening. After Leland arrives for his date with Angel, Guy, Delia, and Sam leave to go out to the theater. Angel and Leland stay in the apartment and get to know one another. Angel learns that Leland is from Alabama and has recently come to Harlem to stay with a cousin. He tells her that his wife, Anna, died eight months earlier in childbirth, which the baby also did not survive. Leland explains that Angel reminds him of his wife, which is why she caught his attention. Angel also learns that Leland is very religious; she admits that she herself does not go to church. Angel kisses him and the lights go down.

Scene v takes place the following Friday evening. Guy tells Delia that he has finally received a telegram from Josephine Baker in Paris, stating that she likes his gown designs and requesting that he send her several sample gowns. After Delia leaves, Leland arrives for a date with Angel, who is not home yet. Guy invites him in but goes out before Angel arrives. Angel comes in, back from her ‘‘audition’’ with Tony T. She explains that Tony T. wanted to take her on as his mistress, supporting her in exchange for romantic companionship. Leland assumes that Angel has turned down Tony T.’s offer, although Angel hints that she has, in fact, accepted it since she has no other source of income. Leland tells Angel that he wants to be her man, although she warns him against the idea. He gives her a dress as a gift. After Leland leaves, Angel looks at the dress, which is entirely too conservative for her taste and looks awful.

Act II
Scene i of act II takes place two weeks later on a Sunday afternoon. Guy is preparing a tea party to celebrate sending his five costumes off to Josephine Baker in Paris. Sam, Delia, Leland, and Angel are all there to celebrate. But when Leland finds out that Guy is homosexual, he calls it ‘‘an abomination.’’ Guy angrily kicks Leland out of the apartment and then interrogates Angel as to why she intends to marry Leland even though she doesn’t love him. Angel explains that she wants to marry Leland because he will provide her with financial stability. Meanwhile, in Delia’s apartment, Delia and Sam kiss for the first time.

Scene ii takes place two weeks later. Sam tells Angel that her test shows she is two months pregnant. Angel still hasn’t found a job, and there is an eviction notice on the door of Guy’s apartment. Guy, however, is unworried about their financial situation because he is counting on receiving money from Josephine Baker for his costumes. After Guy leaves, Leland, who hasn’t come around to see Angel in two weeks, arrives and asks her to marry him. She accepts.

Scene iii takes place the following day. The building in which Delia had hoped to open a family planning clinic has been set on fire in protest against the clinic. Sam, however, offers an alternative space in which to set up the clinic. Guy arrives home with a cable message from Josephine Baker, saying she loves all five of the costumes he made and inviting him to come to Paris and work for her. She has included a ticket on the boat to Paris, along with plenty of money to prepare for the trip. Angel arrives, and Guy tells her the good news and that he has also purchased a ticket for her to accompany him to France. After Guy and Delia go out to celebrate, Sam arrives. Angel tells him that she said would marry Leland but that she has now decided she wants to go to Paris with Guy and does not want to have the baby. Sam agrees to perform an abortion.

Scene iv takes place the following morning. Angel returns home from getting the abortion and informs Guy about what she has done. After Guy leaves, Leland arrives with a rocking chair he has made for Angel. He tells her he wants her to rock all of their children in the chair and then gives her a diamond engagement ring. Angel lies to Leland about the abortion, telling him that she lost the baby due to a miscarriage. After he begins to question her, however, she tells him the truth, and Leland guesses that it was Sam who performed the abortion. He tells Angel she’s lucky he isn’t going to kill her for aborting his child. As Leland is leaving the building, Sam walks up, and Leland shoots him in the back with a pistol, killing him.

Scene v takes place two weeks later. Guy and Delia have not seen Angel since the morning Sam was shot. Guy invites Delia to go with him to Paris, and she agrees. Guy goes out, and Angel quietly slips into the apartment. Delia sees her, but the two women ‘‘both understand that things have changed between them forever,’’ and they say nothing to one another. After Delia leaves, Angel sits at the window, calmly drinking a glass of champagne, contemplating her next move.

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