Eros, the god of love, narrates the action of the play in haunting passages akin to the Greek choruses of ancient tragedies. We meet Penny and Philip, newlyweds who have abandoned unhappy marriages to work together on Philip's archeological dig in Sicily. They bring along their nine children, hoping to instill in them a love of antiquity and a zest for the same impassioned living they've re-discovered in middle age. What they aren't willing to discuss with the children, however, is that their marriage originally began as an illicit affair, symbolically identifying with an half-buried statue of four baboons basking contentedly in the sun. Immediately, the children announce that they knew of the affair from the start, and worse, their eldest children, Wayne and Halcy, have fallen in love and are demanding permission to have sex. Forbidden to continue the relationship, the children escape during an earthquake that separates the two families. Penny and Philip find them just as they are making love on a hilltop. Fleeing his parents, Wayne climbs a cliff and accidentally falls to his death. Philip, his spirit broken, returns to the States for the funeral, but Penny stays behind. The play ends with Penny basking in the Sicilian sun, meditating with the deeper understanding of what the four baboons statue has come to symbolize to her: There they sit, blinded by the very sun they worship, yet drawn again and again, regardless of pain, to its life-giving warmth.
In a whirlwind of romantic impetuosity, a newlywed couple relocates to an archeological dig in Sicily, bringing their nine children from previous marriages. There, they face a tragedy testing their commitment to love against a waning passion. "John Guare is a hypnotic spinner of tales. In his plays, language takes on a magical, talismanic power, characters abruptly assume heroic dimensions and music permeates the air like perfume…this play has an ineluctable emotional power." —Variety. "…I can only speak from the perspective of someone who was deeply stirred by this play, not only aesthetically by the bold risks of Mr. Guare's experiment but also at a cathartic level by the naked power of what he has to say about the risks of life itself…" —NY Times.