Vera and John are lounging in their summer house on a July weekend, playing a game of one-upmanship, comparing how much they hate one another and loosely planning to kill their weekend houseguests, Gale and Manny. The fuddy duddy pair of guests are easy targets for their hosts' scathing hostility, but beneath their middle-class aspirations lurk hidden passions: Gale desperately declares love for Vera, but emotions confuse the highly verbal and intellectual Vera, who ultimately prefers Gale to play the submissive to her dominating contempt. Manny, in turn, convulses from the memory of the abuse he received as a child after Vera's husband, John, mocks the women's supposed lesbianism by seducing her. The loathsome Vera proposes an insane contest of misery in which she tastes each of the others' tears; the bitterest, she says, will win her hand. Manny "wins" and Vera proposes that they swap mates for six months and meet back at her unfinished winter house. Act Two takes place six months later in January, and the four have been affected by more than the punishing weather. Each has been stricken with a debilitating accident or disability: Vera is in a body cast; Manny is partially deaf; John is a multiple amputee from a car accident, and Gale is blind and half-mad. There is nothing to eat, nothing to drink but bottled water, and no facilities in the unfinished, snow-bound skeleton of a house. In the Jacobean extremity of their suffering, and having proved that life is nothing but a bitter joke, the two couples repent their evil ways and skeptically pray for love to return and once again grace their lives.
A well-to-do (but actually bankrupt) couple and their houseguests, unable to tolerate any longer their growing ennui and mutual disgust, swap husbands for a six-month trial period. "…sharply honed comedy…witty, crisp, and rich in a sort of black, philosophic humor…a vital commentary on our spiritually bankrupt times." —BackStage. "With THE HOUSEGUESTS, Kondoleon has landed upon a suitably florid context for his over-the-moon language…[the play] flies with some of his most trenchant writing…" —NY Newsday. "…postmodern high comedy…a smart, stinging, usefully disruptive idea." —Village Voice.