Tom Murphy has decided on suicide. He has chosen his thirty-third birthday as the occasion of his death, and as a final gesture of his premeditation, he is completing a portrait of himself. While methodically continuing at his work, he is beset by the memory images of the people who have been the most significant within his life: his mother and deceased father, his ex-wife and her parents, all of whom he ignores. As each of these individuals adds to an opening fugue of inter related monologues, Tom’s father, a former carpenter who had suffered a mental breakdown, emerges as dominated presence within the mix of voices until Alena, Tom’s ex-lover, enters in an attempt to surprise him on his birthday.
Alena’s presence disperses the memories and the suicide. She serves as a focal point for Tom’s survival. Through an effort at reestablishing his relationship with her, Tom gains an external purpose which he feels as life giving. He is also, however, haunted by past. Throughout the afternoon, he drifts into reliving a series of inter actions from the past which have served to characterize his previous relationships. During the series of confrontations, the portrait of Tom’s character is dramatically represented, and the deepest secrets of his self image, as it has been imposed upon him, are clearly represented.
While succeeding in his seduction of Alens, following the disclosure that it was a result of exposure to one of Tom’s childhood illness that the circumstances which led to his father’s breakdown had begun, Ruth, Tom’s ex-wife accompanies a choreographic scene of love making on the piano and explains how Tom’s apparent strength of character had led to the disillusion of their marriage. Then, being forced to allow Alena to leave him in order to return to her home with the older man whose support and affection she has accepted. Tom is overwhelmed by an onslaught of all the persons with whom he has had important relationships. To put a stop to this relentless assault, Tom struggles to take hold of the gun he had hidden upon Alena’s arrival, then, making a self-assertive, self-affirming decision, destroys the painting. Tom then approaches the audience as a free self-defined individual.