The place is a home in Queens (NY), where the family of Jared Philibert, who has long been confined in an iron lung, gathers to celebrate his fiftieth birthday. Present are his wife; his two sisters, who also live in the house and care for him; the younger sister's boyfriend (who has brought along a case of West Indian rum called "Nevis Mountain Dew"); and a strapping young co-worker of his wife's. As the rum flows so does the truth: the bitterness of the sisters, who have sacrificed so much to look after their brother; the still young and passionate wife, whose husband has so long been a helpless invalid; and the young co-worker, whose attraction to the wife is no longer a secret. In the end Jared, aware that he is not the only one imprisoned by his condition, resolves to set both himself and the others free, by pleading with them to unplug the respirator, the "metal overcoat" in which he has spent so many years. His plea is answered, but the result is not the loss but rather the affirmation of life—which, in Jared's view, must be experienced fully and joyfully or not at all.
Surging with life, this eloquent, moving and frequently funny play, which was presented to great acclaim by New York's Negro Ensemble Company, deals with the tensions that mount between a man entrapped in a respirator and his loving, but long-suffering family. "His people are distinctive individuals, with dimensions, not traits. He draws them with humor and affection, and consequently we believe in them." —NY Post. "He has a natural gift for the theatre, writing dialogue that is hearty, flavorful and lightened with West Indian rhythms and humor." —NY Times. "Carter, a master at characterization, not only enables an audience to get to know the characters, but also to like and care about them as well." —Variety.