The play is about fear and negation. Ruby is its hero, Sigfrid and Grandpa its conscience, Clarence and Lakme its victims. It is also a play about choice: the choice of evil, which is a constant, over chaos, which is not necessarily a good. It is a tragedy of intelligence. Ruby perceives too clearly many truths but does not see the basic one: We cannot destroy everything without destroying ourselves. Her error is her negation of all links with mankind. Her way of life must end as it does, in a colossal suicide. Her Message to the World has come true. For herself, for Sigfrid, for all of them. But she does not flinch before the steady trend of her approaching fate. She will not grovel. She cannot beg. She meets it head-on and defiant, like a female Prometheus.
First produced at the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre, in Minneapolis, this brilliant and highly imaginative play went on to a subsequent and much discussed Broadway presentation with Eileen Heckart in the central role. Bizarre in style, yet filled with an arresting immediacy and perceptiveness, the play deals with a strange, intriguing family which has barricaded itself away in a cellar, seeking sanctuary from the fearsome, sinister world "outside." Led by Ruby, the mother, they lure others to their lair to be seduced and taunted and ultimately destroyed—just as they, in turning so violently from life, must inevitably bring on their own destruction as well. "…the most impressive new American play I have seen this season…" —Village Voice. "…serious, ambitious, daring, often verbally brilliant…" —Minneapolis Tribune.