This two-act comedy is set in the adjoining backyards of two dysfunctional South Philadelphia families. Young Francis Geminiani is at home during his last summer before beginning his senior year at Harvard. An overweight outsider who has never had a deep relationship with anyone, he is alienated from his lower-class father and their environment and appears to find solace only in his collection of opera recordings, which he plays for escape.
Classmates from Harvard, Judith and Randy Hastings, arrive over the backyard fence to pay Francis a surprise visit. The brother and sister set up a tent in the Geminianis’ backyard so they can help Francis celebrate his coming of age on his twenty-first birthday. The attractive Hastings siblings are from a well-off Boston family, and Francis is embarrassed by his lower-class Italian American environment. Coupled with this awkwardness, Francis fears that he is becoming infatuated with Randy rather than Judith, who is in love with him.
The personal equation is made more complicated by the addition of a sixteen-year-old Jewish neighbor from next door, Herschel Weinberger. Herschel is a younger, exaggerated version of Francis, echoing the overweight Francis’s awkwardness but having an obsession with the subway system instead of opera. Herschel is also smitten with Randy because the Harvard freshman has shown a modicum of interest in his extensive collection of subway transfers. Bunny, Herschel’s drunken widow mother, is not above throwing herself at Francis’s father, Fran. Despite having had a fling with Bunny, Fran is now having a relationship with Lucille Pompi, an Italian woman who lives in the neighborhood.
The Hastings have ostensibly come to learn whether Francis has lost his feelings for Judith. Francis is at a critical point in his development, as he stands on the cusp of manhood. He loathes himself and wants nothing more than to be left alone with his opera recordings. The body of this seriocomic play is structured around echoing themes rather than traditional plot development. In one of its subplots, the pathetic boozer Bunny tries in vain to rekindle the flame Fran had for her in the past. When he refuses to respond, she attempts suicide in a manner reminiscent of Anton Chekhov’s most ineffectual characters by climbing a telephone pole and...
(The entire section is 953 words.)