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SCENE ONEIt is 1929. Ivan Prisypkin, a former Party member, strolls into a huge State Department Store in Tambov, accompanied by his future mother-in-law Rosalie Pavlovna Renaissance (who runs a successful beauty parlor) and an eccentric house-owner named Oleg Bayan. Hawkers are selling all sorts of products: bananas, German whetsones, lampshades, balloons, herring, glue, perfume, and fur-lined brassieres. Declaring, "My house must be like a horn of plenty", Prisypikin orders Rosalie to buy up all sorts of unnecessary stuff such as bonnets and dancing dolls for his future children. Rosalie is reluctant, but Bayan advises her that Prisypkin's way is the way of the up-and-coming working class; and, more importantly, Prisypkin is bringing an immaculate proletarian origin into her family along with an all-important union card. So Rosalie shouldn't count her kopecks.Prisypkin reminds Rosalie that she can't call him "Comrade" until after the wedding, because she's not a proletarian yet.Rosalie sees a hawker selling herring, but she is offended by the small size of them. So she runs off to the State Cooperative to buy herring there instead.Bayan unctiously tells Prisypkin that he can arrange the wedding. Bayan offers to sing an epithalamium of Hymen, but Prisypikin thinks he's talking about the Himalayas. Bayan describes a perfectly class-conscious wedding: the bride, with red lips; arrives in a red carriage; her escort with be a red-faced bookkeeper; the table will be covered in red; the bottles will have red seals. Our love is liquidated. I'll call the militia if you interfere with my freedom of love as a citizen. |
A working girl named Zoya Beryozkina, who until this moment thought she was Prysipkin's girlfriend, happens by and overhears this talk. She demands to know what it is all about. Prysipkin carelessly dismisses her, telling her that their affair is over.Rosalie returns with the herring she got from the State Cooperative. She is heart-broken to discover...