WEFOUNDHeartbreak House a Fantasia in the Russian Manner on English Themes

Ellie Dunn, desolate and forgotten, sits alone in a room that resembles part of an old-fashioned ship. Her plight is explained when Nurse Guinness, a servant, and Captain Shotover enter. Ellie was invited by Hesione Hushabye, who then forgot the invitation. Nurse Guinness explains this as normal for the bohemian Heartbreak House. As they talk, Ariadne arrives, returning home for her first visit in more than two decades; appalled by Heartbreak House’s disorder, she has married a conventional colonial administrator and cultivated propriety.

Hesione enters and explains that she invited Ellie in an effort to break off Ellie’s proposed marriage to Boss Mangan. Ellie reveals that, indeed, her real love is not for Mangan but for a mysterious Marcus Darnley, whom she met in London; he has won her as Othello won Desdemona, by enchanting her with stories of his own heroics. As Ellie describes him, Darnley enters and proves to be Hesione’s philandering husband, Hector. Ellie says that her heart is broken.

Boss Mangan enters, asserting his importance, and is followed by Randall Utterword; he begins flirting with Hesione, while Ariadne sulks until Hector returns and begins flirting with her. As the characters waste their time in these enchantments, Captain Shotover despairs. Hesione and Hector insist on the importance of romance, but Hesione also tells Shotover that he must invent a new deadly weapon if the household is to be maintained financially.