Penelope Sycamore: The daughter of Martin Vanderhof, mother of Essie and Alice, and wife of Paul, Penelope is the fluttery, gentle lady of the house. She decided to become a playwright when a typewriter was delivered to their house by mistake. Since that time this accidental playwright has spent much of her time writing works with titles such as Poison Gas.
Essie: The daughter of Penelope and Paul, granddaughter of Martin Vanderhof, and wife of Ed, Essie is a pixie in toeshoes. At the age of twenty-nine, she wants to be a dancer in the worst way–and, according to any unbiased observer, that is exactly what she is. The eternal student, she takes lessons from Boris Kolenkhov and is constantly dancing across the living room.
Rheba: The maid in the Vanderhof household, she probably understands this unusual family better than anyone.
**Paul Sycamore:**The husband of Penelope and father of Essie, Paul Sycamore is in his mid-fifties, but with a kind of youthful air. His quiet charm and mild manner are distinctly engaging. However, under that unassuming exterior lies a man who lives for his fireworks–the ones he manufactures in the cellar.
**Mr. De Pinna:**Years ago Mr. De Pinna was delivering ice to the Vanderhof home–and just decided to stay. Now the mad genius of pyrotechnics helps out Paul in the cellar.
**Ed:**The husband of Essie, Ed is a nondescript young man in his mid-thirties. However, he has two passions: the printing press and the xylophone.
**Donald:**Rheba’s boyfriend, Donald spends a lot of comfortable time at the Vanderhof home.
**Martin Vanderhof:**The patriarchal head of the family, Grandpa Martin Vanderhof is about seventy-five, a man whom the years have treated kindly. He is a man who made his peace with the world long, long ago, and his whole attitude and manner are quietly persuasive of this. He does, however, have a long-standing “disagreement” with the Internal Revenue Service.
**Alice:**The daughter of Penelope and Paul and sister of Essie, Alice is a lovely, fresh young girl of about twenty-two. Because she is a secretary in a Wall Street office, she is in daily contact with the world and seems to have escaped the tinge of mild insanity that pervades the rest of the family; however, her familial devotion and love are readily apparent. In the course of the play she is engaged to marry Tony Kirby, her boss’s son.
**Tony Kirby:**The boyfriend and later fiancé of Alice, Tony Kirby is a personable young man not long out of Yale and Cambridge. Although he fits all the physical requirements of a boss’s son, his face (and his spirit) has something of the idealist in it, invoking in him a certain fondness for the Vanderhofs’ quirkiness.
**Boris Kolenkhov:**Essie’s dance teacher, Boris Kolenkhov is a hearty, explosive, Russian ballet-master.
**Mr. Kirby:**Tony’s father and Alice’s boss in the Wall Street office, Mr. Kirby is a successful businessman who wants his son to follow in his footsteps; thus, he is very disapproving of the Vanderhof family and of his son’s engagement to Alice.
**Mrs. Kirby:**Tony’s mother, Mrs. Kirby is of the same mind and temperament as her husband.