Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 495
Artie Shaughnessy, a zookeeper and would-be songwriter. Obsessed by a need to be famous, forty-five-year-old Artie fears that it may be too late for him. He looks to Bunny for the support Bananas is too sick to give, but he still has a soft spot for his wife. The play focuses on his attempts to find success, first by having his music blessed by the pope, then by kowtowing to Hollywood celebrities Corrinna Stroller and Billy Einhorn.
Bananas Shaughnessy, Artie’s wife, once a fun-loving woman. She has since suffered a nervous breakdown. She is forty-four years old and appears in the play in a nightgown she has worn for the past six months; her eyes are red from crying. Frightened of Artie’s threats to send her to a rest home, she does her best to prove that she is still competent and that Artie is wrong to leave her.
Ronnie Shaughnessy, the eighteen-year-old son of Artie and Bananas. He wears a brushcut and large glasses. At the time of the play, Ronnie is absent without leave from the Army. Another victim of Artie’s thirst for fame, Ronnie once acted like an idiot in front of Hollywood director Billy Einhorn, who was looking for a boy Ronnie’s age to play Huck Finn. Although he sneaks into Artie’s apartment in the opening scene, he disappears and does not say anything or enter into the plot until he appears with a bomb intended to kill the pope. When he is discovered by nuns, he is wearing his old altar boy robes.
Bunny Flingus, the Shaughnessys’ neighbor and Artie’s mistress. Bunny, a plump thirty-nine-year-old gold digger, wants to ride Artie’s coattails to fame. It is her idea to have Artie’s music blessed by the pope and to “audition” for Corrinna Stroller. Bunny is a wonderful cook but refuses to cook for Artie until they are married. When it is clear that Artie will not succeed as a songwriter, Bunny leaves him for successful filmmaker Billy Einhorn.
Billy Einhorn, a famous Hollywood director. A lifelong friend exactly Artie’s age (forty-five), Billy represents all the fame and fortune Artie wants. Although he does not appear in the first act, he is the main topic of conversation, and the high point of the act is Artie’s phone call to Billy’s home in California. Billy arrives in response to Corrinna’s death. Billy’s maudlin sentimentalizing is clearly bogus, and his grief over Corrinna disappears as soon as he sees Bunny and steals her from Artie.
Corrinna Stroller, a twenty-two-year-old movie starlet. She starred in Billy’s film Warmonger but lost her hearing when a prop mine exploded during the filming. Artie sees her as his ticket to fame and plays his songs for her, but she does not hear them. Ronnie’s bomb, intended for the pope, kills Corrinna.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 574
Billy is Artie’s childhood best friend. He has also known Bananas for many years and had given her that nickname. Billy is now a famous Hollywood movie director, and he is involved in a romantic relationship with Corrinna. At Bunny’s urging, Artie gets Billy to help him revive his career as a movie songwriter, but that fails. When Corrinna dies, Billy convinces Bunny to go to Australia, leaving Artie alone with Bananas.
Bunny is Artie’s girlfriend and downstairs neighbor. Thirty-nine years old, she is an amazing cook and supportive of Artie’s musical ambitions. Once Bananas is out of the way, she plans on marrying Artie and moving to California with him. She tries to control Artie’s life and takes every opportunity to express her jealousy of Bananas. Yet at the first chance she gets—Billy’s offer to move to Australia— she dumps Artie for a new, more exciting life.
The Little Nun is one of three nuns who get trapped on the roof of Artie’s apartment building after the Pope drives by. She has not yet taken her final vows as a nun and is not enthusiastic about her chosen profession. After two nuns die in the explosion, the Little Nun decides not to return to the convent. Eventually she is hired by Billy to live in Bunny’s apartment and take care of Bananas.
Artie Shaughnessy is the protagonist of The House of Blue Leaves. Frustrated on a number of levels, Artie’s life is at a turning point. His marriage to Bananas is empty; because of her mental illness, he feels little more than her caretaker. He has a girlfriend, Bunny, who is selfish and controlling.
He works in a New York zoo taking care of animals, but he is really a frustrated songwriter and singer. He wants to make it big but has done nothing to advance his career. Artie is also concerned about his son, Ronnie, who is in the Army. Like Bananas, Ronnie suffers from severe mental illness and has violent, paranoid fantasies. By the end of the play, Artie feels so helpless and trapped that he kills Bananas.
Bananas is Artie’s wife; she has been suffering from mental illness for a long time. In fact, she has not left her apartment for several months. She fears going to a mental hospital and the treatment she would receive. Although ill, she provides lucid and insightful comments at certain moments of the action. Artie kills her at the end of the play.
Ronnie is the teenage son of Bananas and Artie. He is in the army but has gone absent without leave to return home. His parents are unaware of his presence in the apartment for most of the play.
Suffering from severe mental problems, Ronnie builds a bomb to blow up the Pope. He almost has the opportunity to see the Pope at Yankee Stadium but instead uses his bomb to blow up two nuns and Corrinna Stroller. Ronnie is arrested, but Billy gets him released. Instead of jail, Ronnie will serve two weeks in the brig, then be stationed in Italy.
Corrinna is a famous actress and the girlfriend of Billy. Partially deaf from an accident that happened on the set of a movie, she has not worked since then. She is a very kind person.