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.