Authors: Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman
First published: 1937
Locale: New York City
Penelope (Penny) Vanderhof Sycamore, a mother in her mid-fifties, the matriarch of a comic household, carefree and easygoing. Penny clearly loves her family and life itself. After a typewriter is mistakenly delivered to her, she drops her old hobby of painting and begins to write plays. She does both very badly, but with style and good humor.
Paul Sycamore, Penny's husband and father of the Sycamore brood. Paul has given up ordinary work to construct fireworks in his basement. He often tries them out in the center of the living room. He intends to market them, but his plans never quite work out. Paul is less involved than his wife in the lives of the children because he spends so much time in the basement.
Grandpa Martin Vanderhof, the patriarch and founder of the family's unconventional lifestyle. The Sycamore family clearly revolves around Grandpa, and his eccentric clear-sightedness saves the day more than once. One day, Grandpa left work and never returned; he spends his life now in a more productive manner, throwing darts, attending commencements, and enjoying his family.
Essie Sycamore Carmichael, the elder daughter, who is married. Essie splits her time between making new kinds of candy (successfully) and practicing to become a ballerina (unsuccessfully).
Ed Carmichael, Essie's husband. Ed plays the xylophone, operates an amateur printing press in the living room, and occasionally peddles Essie's candies.
Alice Sycamore, the younger daughter, in her early twenties. Alice is the only normal person in the Sycamore family. She works in an office on Wall Street and has no unusual hobbies. She is devoted to her outlandish family, however, and generally approves of their lifestyles. Alice is in love with Tony Kirby but is afraid that their families will never get along.
Anthony (Tony) Kirby, Jr., Alice's fiancé, fresh out of college and the new vice president of his father's business, where Alice works. Tony finds the Sycamores delightful, in contrast to his stodgy family, although, like Alice, he is basically a normal person.
Anthony Kirby,Sr.,Tony'sfather.Mr.Kirbyisastereotypical Wall Street mogul: tired, worried, stiff, and bothered by indigestion. He is at first appalled by the antics of the Sycamores but comes to appreciate their “seize the day” attitude.
Rheba, the black maid. Entertaining in her own right, Rheba provides fairly objective commentary on the doings of the Sycamores.
Donald, Rheba's boyfriend. Donald is on relief and wanders around the Sycamore house in his bathrobe, but he, too, appears more normal than the white people around him.
Mr. De Pinna, an iceman who came to make a delivery eight years earlier, fell under the Sycamores' spell, and has stayed ever since. Mr. De Pinna is Paul's assistant in the basement fireworks factory and models for Penny's paintings.