The House of Blue Leaves opens with a brief prologue in which Artie Shaughnessy plays piano and sings his songs at the El Dorado Bar and Grill, talking to the theater audience as if they were the bar’s patrons. Act 1 opens in Artie’s shabby apartment in Sunnyside, Queens. As Artie snores on the couch, mumbling “Pope Ronnie,” his son Ronnie appears at the barred window, dressed in army fatigues. Ronnie reaches for keys in his father’s discarded pants, unlocks a security gate, enters the apartment, and raids the refrigerator. The doorbell rings, sending Ronnie into his room to hide.
The person at the door is Bunny Flingus, Artie’s downstairs neighbor and lover. She is cold and angry, and immediately begins lambasting Artie for failing to be prepared or excited about Pope Paul VI’s visit to New York. Artie agrees to come outside and watch the pope only if Bunny will cook for him, something she has refused to do until after they are married: “I’m not that kind of girl.”
During this exchange, Artie’s wife, Bananas, appears in a nightgown, looking ill. She watches for a while, unseen by Bunny or Artie, then returns to her room and calls out. Artie hides Bunny in the kitchen, and Bananas reemerges. True to her name, Bananas begins getting hysterical, and Artie forces a sedative into her mouth. She calms down but begs Artie to let her feel her emotions for a change. He tells about his dream in which Ronnie became pope and made Artie a saint but totally ignored his mother. This gives Artie an inspiration: he rushes to the piano and plays and sings “The Day That the Pope Came to New York.”
Artie prepares breakfast for Bananas, while she goes on all fours, barking like a dog. Bunny returns from the kitchen, insulting Bananas. Artie breaks the news to Bananas that he has found a sanatorium on Long Island, where he hopes to commit her. He describes the place in a lyrical monologue in which the play’s title is explained: On his visit to the sanatorium Artie saw a beautiful tree with blue leaves. The leaves proved to be a flock of birds.
Bunny, sensing that Artie is wavering, insists that he prove he knows the famous film director Billy Einhorn by calling him in the middle of the night. Artie does so and tells Billy that he will be coming to Hollywood with Bunny. While Bunny exits gleefully to pack for the trip, Bananas tells her own dream, and Artie catches a glimpse of the Bananas he once loved. He kneels with her in front of the pope’s image on television and asks the pontiff to heal Bananas. When Bunny returns, her joy turns to anger, for Artie...
(The entire section is 1070 words.)