The Play

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 863

In a private clinic, Dr. Prentice interviews Geraldine for the position of his secretary. His questions focus on her parents, of whom she knows little except that her mother was a chambermaid at the Station Hotel and that her stepmother recently died as a result of a gas-main explosion which also destroyed a statue of Sir Winston Churchill. Soon, as a part of the interview, he asks her to begin undressing, and she gradually complies behind the curtains of a consulting couch. Mrs. Prentice arrives in a fur coat unexpectedly early from her meeting of the night before, in company with Nick, a page boy from the Station Hotel, where she spent the night. Nick has sold her dress and wig and now threatens her with photographs taken of their intimacy together in the hotel. He wants a hundred pounds and also the position as her husband’s secretary. Dr. and Mrs. Prentice exchange taunts on sexual performance while both drink whiskey copiously. Dr. Prentice is trying to hide Geraldine’s underclothes. Mrs. Prentice demands Geraldine’s dress, as she is in her slip beneath her fur coat. She tries to convince her husband to hire Nick.

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Dr. Rance enters, apparently to investigate the clinic. He questions both Prentice and, when he sees her naked behind the curtain, Geraldine, whom he certifies as insane. Prentice says his secretary is missing and is not this woman. Rance develops a theory that Geraldine was molested by her father. Rance cuts her hair, while Prentice tries to hide her underclothes and shoes in a flower vase. Nick delivers a box containing Mrs. Prentice’s dress and wig; Prentice seizes them. Rance is looking for “Miss Barclay” and cannot find her. Prentice asks Nick to undress and put on Mrs. Prentice’s dress, to impersonate his secretary. When Geraldine reappears she demands her clothing but then ducks behind the curtains. Sergeant Match has entered looking for Nick, who is alleged to have violated a group of schoolgirls at the hotel, and Geraldine, who is suspected of having certain parts of the statue of Sir Winston Churchill. Prentice says he does not know where either one is. Geraldine puts on Nick’s uniform, so that by the end of the act she is impersonating him and he her.

Act 2 begins one minute later. Match questions Geraldine, thinking her to be Nick. When Geraldine indicates confusion over which sex she is, Rance demands that she undress. She confesses that she is a girl, while Mrs. Prentice reports that “Miss Barclay” (Nick) refuses to undress in front of a woman. When Rance demands to know who Geraldine is, if not Nick, Prentice says she is “Gerald” Barclay. Rance gives Prentice a pillbox and tells him to take no more than the stated dose. Prentice supervises the undressing of Match. Nick dresses in Match’s clothing, while Prentice gives Match the pills and tells him to take as many as he wants, as they are harmless. When Match becomes unconscious from the pills, Prentice and Nick put Mrs. Prentice’s leopard-skin dress on him and drag him out.

Rance enters with two straitjackets. Nick claims to be his own brother, whom he has just arrested, but eventually confesses to Rance that he is the page boy. Rance asks for Nick’s help in putting the straitjacket on Prentice. Mrs. Prentice takes two guns from a drawer and offers one to Rance. Prentice is urging Nick, Match, and Geraldine to undress, in order to get them back in their proper clothing. A shot is heard and Match enters, wounded in the leg. Mrs. Prentice demands that Prentice make love to her and, when he refuses, fires at him. Again a shot is heard and Nick enters, wounded in the shoulder. Geraldine, close to naked, enters and asserts that she is Geraldine; Rance insists that she is not. Nick threatens Prentice with a gun in order to get the straitjacket on him, while Rance...

(The entire section contains 3625 words.)

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