The first act is set in the fussily ornate apartment of Mendy, a ferociously dedicated opera buff who begs and cajoles his friend Stephen to let him borrow his copy of the pirated Maria Callas recording of La Traviata made during a performance in Lisbon, Portugal. Stephen, a blocked playwright whose detailed knowledge of opera exceeds even Mendy's, delights in showing off his expertise while dodging his friend's entreaties, but beneath their often hilarious banter it is evident that both men are deeply unhappy—Mendy because of his loneliness, and Stephen because he is aware that his longtime roommate (whom he loves deeply) is having an affair with someone else. Both it seems, are trapped within opera, with its grand but contrived passions becoming a neurotic substitute for real life. But in the second act, that takes place in Stephen's starkly modern apartment, reality arrives with stunning force as Stephen confronts his roommate, Mike, and tries to salvage their relationship. Sensing his failure, Stephen turns on Mike and his new lover, Paul, driving the latter away and taunting Mike so venomously that all hope of a reconciliation is soon shattered. And, in the end, it is the operatic, the grandly tragic, which assumes control again as Stephen, unable to accept life and reality on their own terms, stabs his errant lover—tortured by his continuing lack of creative fulfillment and by the compelling need to preserve the illusion of love and fidelity to which he has clung so desperately.
A successful Off-Broadway production, this incisive, brilliantly executed play veers from high comedy to stark tragedy as it follows the troubled course of a homosexual relationship—using an obsession with grand opera as a metaphor to underscore the larger-than-life passions that bring the play to its explosive conclusion. "…McNally is a real writer with a flair for crackling dialogue." —Variety. "…a defiant attempt to confront demons." —NY Times. "…McNally is a lovely writer, his dialogue crackles crisply…" —NY Post.