Four actors sit on a darkened stage, awaiting the arrival of the stage manager who has called them together. Lacking his authoritative presence they are merely characters in search of a play to become part of, for their own personalities seem unformed and shallow next to the full-blooded figures they are used to playing. They are also "types," and each of them has absorbed most of what he is from what he pretends to be on the stage. As they wait, the stage lights come up—but still no one appears to tell them what they are to do. They know only that they are not to leave the stage until they have "acted out the play." Suddenly becoming aware that an audience is present, the actors decide to improvise, an idea which finds them slightly flustered. Ernest, the "leading man," exercises the prerogative of star billing and assumes command. He plunges ahead, assigning roles to himself and his colleagues—Winifred, who always plays the "leading lady's best friend"; Lora, the struggling ingenue; and Tony, the juvenile lead. The "drama" which unfolds is a mixture of truth, fantasy and well-rehearsed situations, but out of it, in subtle progression, comes a deepening awareness of the real people behind the theatrical facades.
This play, conceived in the "Pirandello mode," brings a fresh approach to a timeless theme—what should be the proper ratio of truth vs. illusion in the balanced life?