The action takes place in the summer home of a wealthy "WASP" family on a resort island off the New England coast. In residence are a middle-aged but still attractive widow; her divorced daughter; and her prep school teacher son and his wife. Their pleasant regimen is interrupted by two jarring events: the mother's announcement that she plans to marry an old family friend (which means that the house will then pass to her children); and the unexpected arrival of her younger son and his family. The younger son, "Pokey," has always been out of step with the rest of the family, and while he remains a shadowy offstage figure throughout, it is quickly evident not only that (for reasons of his own) he objects to his mother's remarriage and to the plans which his siblings have hatched for the house, but also that he can, and will, stop them. As the others lash back at Pokey, much that has been repressed in them rises to the surface, and they are forced to painful (yet often funny) examinations of their own rather sterile lives. In the end, however, their resistance crumbles, and they are resigned again to things as they are and, most likely, will continue to be until the ways of the world truly change.
Hailed in both its New York and London productions, this absorbing, literate play blends humor and revealing irony in its study of a well-to-do American family forced to deal with a challenge to its comfortable status quo. "Here is a really good new American play. Mr. Gurney writes sensitively about how people behave within those strange institutions called families." —Village Voice. "…one is held from beginning to end." —The New Yorker. "…funny, sad, rueful and thought-provoking." —NY Newsday. "…the multiple story line has tension and suspense, the characters are believable, the dialog is realistic and witty and the general effect is persuasive." —Variety (London).