The Garden Party begins in the Pludeks’ flat; the family members are present while Hugo plays chess with himself. The parents send Peter downstairs so that an expected visitor, Kalabis, will not see that he “looks like a bourgeois intellectual.” They then ask Hugo if he has considered his future, the father spouting nonsensical clichés. The conversation is circular and bears no relation to real time. Finally Hugo is told of Kalabis’s planned visit, at the same moment that he checkmates himself. Pludek is inspired to discourse on the Japanese and the middle class in history. The doorbell finally rings, after several false alarms; Peter, who has reentered, is hurriedly sent to the pantry. Instead of Kalabis, however, a young messenger named Amanda enters. She reads a telegram explaining that Kalabis will not come; he is going to the Liquidation Office garden party. Mrs. Pludek decides to send Hugo to the garden party. Amanda lingers, and she is told by Mrs. Pludek not to worry: She had small parts in plays, too, when she was younger. After Amanda exits, her possibilities for Hugo are discussed. Hugo wants to play another game of chess, but when his mother explains that life, too, is a chessboard, he resolves to go to the party. Hugo exits to a mixture of quotations and cliché bits of song from his parents. Peter enters simultaneously, then also exits without a word; the parents are still caught up in their inane vision of future happiness as the scene ends.
Act 2 begins at the entrance to the Liquidation Office garden party. A male clerk and a female secretary review guests at a table; Hugo enters and asks them about Kalabis. They explain to him the organizational structure of the garden party, which is quite complicated in an exaggerated, bureaucratic way. Hugo points to some mistakes in their planning, then says “Check!” The clerks evade his criticism but are interrupted by Maxy Falk. He gives an extended greeting that includes lines which parody Terence’s famous pronouncement on playwriting, which reads, in its new form, “Nothing foreign is human to me.” After Falk’s exit, a brief personal conversation is once again diverted by the officials into petty bureaucratic double-talk. Hugo offers another critique (as a chess move), and Falk returns, explaining his status as an “inaugurator.” The two officials encourage Falk to describe his work and publications, which are on an inflated interpretation of garden parties. After his speech regresses into a series of slogans, Falk leaves. The officials speak briefly about nature before returning to the problems of the party. Hugo offers a third criticism, which is rejected, as Falk returns wearing a papier-mâché nose. This time Falk’s discourse wanders even more, as Hugo and the others begin to repeat his catchphrases. Hugo slowly absorbs the jargon, and after Falk erupts in a fit of temper that scares away the bickering officials, he speaks.
Hugo’s statement begins with a series of rhetorical questions, then evolves into a new, seemingly original combination of the words and phrases he has just heard. Falk, dumbstruck, exchanges identification cards with Hugo, then begins a long conversation in which Falk gradually assumes that Hugo is a liquidator who is planning to abolish the Inauguration Service. Hugo quotes Falk’s patronizing lines from the first part of the act and leaves, shouting “Check!” Falk, in despair, is approached by the contrite officials, who explain how they made up their differences in a very personal way. Falk cares nothing for them, announcing that the Inauguration Service is to be liquidated and stalking off. The secretary notices that the clerk has lost interest in her and begins to weep. He begins planning the liquidation as Falk runs onstage and sticks out his tongue at them to end the scene.
Act 3 takes place in the head office of the Liquidation Service, where a secretary stamps and sorts files taken by the director from his...
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