Dan, a drifter and jack-of-all-trades, most recently a page boy at a provincial English hotel. This young man seems exceptionally good-natured, obliging, and happy-go-lucky, but as the play progresses, it becomes clear that he is criminally insane. Like the classic psychopath, he is devoid of feeling for other human beings but has the ability to ingratiate himself with people by instinctively harmonizing with their personalities, mirroring their attitudes and opinions with uncanny skill. He quickly wins over the lonely Mrs. Bramson by giving her the attention she craves and becomes a trusted member of her household.
Olivia Grayne, a penniless niece of Mrs. Bramson who lives with her as a companion and housekeeper. This plain-looking, twenty-eight-year-old woman is a picture of repressed resentment, hostility, and physical longing. She wears horn-rimmed glasses and does her hair in a tight bun. She is intelligent and intuitive. She quickly sees through Dan’s mask of innocence. Almost as soon as he enters the household as a personal attendant to Mrs. Bramson, Olivia begins to suspect that he is the one responsible for the recent murder of Mrs. Chalfont, who had been staying at the hotel where Dan was employed. Olivia also falls under his spell; in fact, she saves him from exposure when Inspector Belsize is about to discover that the murdered woman’s missing head is concealed in Dan’s hatbox. Olivia finally admits to Dan that he has sized her up correctly: They are soulmates; they both are seething with hatred over the humiliations they suffer in their subservient social roles. She would commit murder...
(The entire section is 686 words.)