Gewürzkrämerkleeblatt Oder Die unschuldigen Schuldigen
Adapted from Les Trios Épiciers, a farce by
Joseph-Phillippe Lockroy and
The action takes place in a town in the provinces.
Act 1. Victor and Peter both work in Baumöhl’s shop, and have become friends, listening to one anothers’ problems – especially when it comes to affairs of the heart. Victor is in love with Louise, but her aunt, taking umbrage at his poverty, has sent her to the city to separate them. He is aware that she has relatives here and therefore has taken the position with Baumöhl, in the hope of finding her. However, he has no idea where she is staying. Peter’s sweetheart is also called Louise. He met her in the express coach, but so far has been unsuccessful in winning her heart. Victor tells Peter that Madame Baumöhl’s curly tresses remind him of his Louise. Cichori and Schwefel warn Baumöhl, with reference to Victor, of the danger of putting temptation in his wife’s way. All three friends are older men with much younger wives, and each considers himself to be the most discerning, taking the wives of his friends for coquettes while believing his own wife to be without blemish. Without being aware of the others’ similar behaviour, each observes the activities of the others’ wives with suspicion. Indeed, Madame Baumöhl and Victor’s relationship seems to Schwefel to be extremely suspect, and he decides to hint as much to his friend, but Baumöhl is equally convinced of Schwefel’s wife’s infidelity, and tries to tell him so – neither picking up the implications of what the other is saying. The only thing that they are able to agree on is that Cichori may well be being betrayed by his wife. To gain his mistress’s attention, Victor has intimated that he knows a secret, and promises that he will look for an appropriate moment to discuss it with her. Peter reveals that Victor isn’t far wrong with his intimations, as Madame Baumöhl has kept a previous relationship, from before her marriage, a secret from her husband. [Song: Cichori] Like his friends, Cichori is convinced that his wife loves him and is absolutely faithful, whilst finding cause for concern with his friends’ wives. To save Baumöhl, Schwefel arranges that Victor, Baumöhl’s salesman, should go and work for Cichori instead. Victor immediately takes a fancy to Madame Cichori, whose singing reminds him of his Louise. He tricks her into believing he owns a childhood portrait of her, which she begs him to burn in her presence, as it is not particularly flattering. Again he promises to look for a suitable opportunity. Baumöhl, hearing the conversation between Victor and Madame Cichori, wishes he’d never allowed Victor to go and work for Cichori.
Act 2. Peter still hasn’t
managed to win Louise’s love. He has recently
inherited a house, and has decided he will marry Louise in the hope that
she will come to love him in time. Baumöhl is still regretting having
let Victor go to Cichori, and tries to get him back with the intention
of saving Cichori
from his wife’s infidelity, but Cichori won’t hear of it. This
makes Baumöhl extremely angry, and Schwefel is only able to resolve
the argument by offering to take on Victor himself – in the belief
that his wife is absolutely trustworthy. [Song: Madame Cichori] Victor
immediately takes to Madame
Schwefel as well, as she looks rather like his Louise. Victor knows that
she should have married a certain Theodor Funk, and Madame Schwefel admits
was the great love of her life, only his family didn’t want them
to marry. Victor tells her that Theodor gave him a packet of letters, the
last tokens of
his former love, on the day after his wedding, with instructions to burn
them. Victor claims to have ignored his friend’s instructions and
to have kept the letters. As he expects, Madame Schwefel demands he hand
over the letters
immediately. He promises her, too, that he will look for an appropriate
opportunity to do so. Cichori suspiciously observes the behaviour of Madame
Victor, and is sure that Madame Schwefel has adulterous intentions.
Act 3. Louise and her guardian Brumm go to have a look at the house that Peter has inherited. Brumm is furious that his ward absolutely refuses to marry Peter, a house owner, especially as her lover cannot be found at the moment. Whilst Brumm gets on with looking around, to her astonishment, Louise bumps into Madame Cichori, and then Madame Baumöhl and Madame Schwefel, who have all come to meet Victor as the letter suggested. As the ladies try to explain their presence, Peter dashes in with the news that their husbands are on their way. They quickly try to hide themselves in a nearby room. Peter is amazed to find Louise there as well, and hides her too. [Tercett: Schwefel, Baumöhl, Cichori]. Although all three are worried that it might be their own wife after all who is the unfaithful one, each thinks it is more likely to be one of his friend’s wives. To spare their friends the emabarrassment of the revelation, and to give the ladies a chance to make good, they extinguish their lamps. In the darkness they meet the women. Each thinks he has another man’s wife before him, although in fact it is his own wife, and reprimandingly leads her from the room. Peter releases Louise from her hiding place, and just as she is about to tell him she will never agree to marry him, Victor unexpectedly enters. He takes Louise into his arms and assures the disconcerted Peter, that this is his Louise. The concierge enters with Baumöhl, Cichori und Schwefel, having arrested them, thinking they are thieves. When Peter reveals himself to be the owner of the house, all three claim they were aware of this and for this reason alone have come there. At the same time they beg Peter not to say anything to their wives. Finally, a new argument arises as to who Victor should be servant to, but Victor ends the argument by announcing his marriage to Louise. All three men congratulate him, each confident once more that he has the best-behaved wife at home.
The Plays of Johann Nestroy. A directory of synopses prepared by Julian Forsyth & Zoe Svenson.
Funded by the Austrian Cultural Forum and Arts Council England. © Moving Theatre 2004