The scene is a government institution, possibly mental or medical and presumably penal, where the inmates are kept behind locked gates and are referred to by number rather than name. In charge is Roote, a pompous ex-colonel who is surely as psychologically disturbed as his charges, and who is abetted by two main lackeys: the quietly sinister Gibbs and a seedy alcoholic appropriately named Lush. There is also the sexy Miss Cutts, whose favors appear to be shared by the various staff members. Among the matters at issue are the disturbing fact that one of the patients has given birth to a baby, though no one has filed an official report about having had sex with her and also the need for Roote to pull himself together to address the understaffed Christmas party. In the final essence these bureaucratic crises hardly matter, however, as the play ends as ominously as it began, with a burst of lethal violence which leaves only one survivor to search for answers and, perhaps, to accept responsibility for the chaos that has ensued.
A hit in both London and New York, this fascinating and very funny play was the author's second full-length work, which he chose to withhold for over twenty years. Set in an unnamed government institution of dubious purpose, which is run by a particularly Pinteresque assemblage of bumbling, sometimes sinister, and often hilarious bureaucrats, the play finds the author at the top of his youthful powers. "How lucky we are to have this new/old play before us at last! Pinter is an incandescence; he glows in the dark, and the glow and the dark are equally of his making." —The New Yorker. "…some of the funniest lines currently on Broadway…" —NY Post. "…it's amusing to rediscover him in youthful form…it's precisely the uninhibited high spirits of the author's immaturity that delight." —NY Times. "THE HOTHOUSE is riotous and spooky fun…bringing a new lift to the theater season." —NY Daily News.