The Increased Difficulty of Concentration opens on an empty stage set of Dr. Huml’s flat. Mrs. Huml enters carrying a tray with breakfast for two. She wears a dressing gown. Huml, in pajamas, asks for honey; she ignores him and accuses him of failing again. He replies that conditions were not right and asks again for honey. She says, “In the cupboard.” When he complains from offstage that he cannot find it, she jumps up and runs offstage, presumably to locate the honey.
Almost immediately Huml backs in, fully dressed, from his study, tiptoes to the same rear door Mrs. Huml just walked through, and stealthily leads Renata to the front door, kissing her as he sneaks her out. He goes back to the study door and ushers in Anna Balcar and Karel Kriebl, wearing lab coats, carefully carrying Puzuk, a machine, between them. They explain that information on Huml has been fed into Puzuk, which is about to ask Huml his first question.
Kriebl fusses with the machine, working on its keyboard, turning its crank, peering into its eyepiece. Balcar calls for the first question. Puzuk rumbles. Machal enters and takes measurements of the room, then writes a measurement on a piece of paper, which Kriebl feeds to Puzuk. Machal exits. Then the same business with crank and buttons and rumbles and a call for silence—Puzuk’s red button goes on. It is overheated and must be cooled in Huml’s refrigerator. Then its siren goes off. Now it is cold, and Balcar and Kriebl run out the back door to Puzuk.
Huml starts toward them, but Renata, wearing Mrs. Huml’s apron, enters from the same back door, carrying a tray with lunch, a stew. They argue because Huml has not told his wife that their marriage must end. She locks herself in the study. Then Blanka comes through the study door to continue taking dictation from Huml. He is dictating a pedantic work on values, specifically, man’s needs and notions of happiness. Blanka goes to the kitchen; Huml follows her. Mr. and Mrs. Huml’s offstage voices indicate that she has found the honey.
Back at the breakfast table, they discuss...
(The entire section is 866 words.)