Cora Swanson and her sister Ida Bolton, along with husbands Thor and Carl, have lived next door to each other for their entire married lives. In addition, an old-maid sister, Arry, lives with Cora and Thor. A fourth sister, Esther and her husband David, live outside the immediate neighborhood.
As the play opens, all four families are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Homer Bolton and his fiancée, Myrtle Brown. Homer has been engaged to Myrtle for seven years and dated her for five years before that and, oddly enough, this will be the first time anyone in his family will have met her.
As Homer and Myrtle finally make their appearance, Homer’s father, Carl, is so frightened of not being able to make a good impression (he considers himself a total failure) that he has one of his “spells” and is conveniently kept out of sight for the time being.
Homer, it seems, is a very reluctant suitor. He has grown more than a little comfortable with his present lifestyle and has no real desire to marry, in spite of the fact that his father has built and furnished a house, a house that has been sitting empty for several years, that will be his when and if he does marry. Myrtle, is beginning to wonder if she has waited long enough.
To complicate matters, Cora and Carl have reached a secret agreement. If Homer makes no wedding announcement during this visit, Carl will lease the vacant house to Cora, enabling her to finally live alone with her husband, Thor, who has no knowledge of the agreement. She plans to leave their present house to her sister, Arry.
Cora and Ida scurry about trying to calm everyone down, and just when it appears that everyone can finally be gotten to the dinner table, the face of David Crampton appears at the kitchen window. He has previously given his wife, Esther, orders never to visit her family whom he considers to be a pack of morons. He calmly announces that, henceforward, Esther will occupy the upper half of their house; he, the lower half. In that case, Esther decides, she’ll just stay with her sister, Ida.
Carl decides to move in with David, who has agreed to help him find out “where he is” in life. But first, Cora gets the disoriented Carl to sign the lease on the empty house, much to the dismay of Homer, Thor, and Arry.
Homer makes up with Myrtle, then enlists the aid of Uncle Thor, who has taken a definite liking to Myrtle, in getting “his” house back. The still confused Carl moves back home, reassured by David who, from all indications, misses Esther and wants her to come home. Cora relents and gives Homer’s house back to him, since he and Myrtle are soon to be married.
Ida and Esther threaten to reveal their suspicions that Arry and Thor have been involved in a long-standing affair. Arry’s “secret,” the fact that she did once have a brief affair with Thor many years before, is revealed, as she decides to move in with Carl and Ida, finally giving Cora her wish of living alone with her husband.