The Cleveland Opera

Highway 1, USA

Scene 1

In the United States, Highway 1 runs from the North to the South. Driving along it, one can see stretches of picturesque countryside, occasionally homes of the rich or the poor, and can frequently pass through cities or villages. And, while driving along Highway 1, one may also stop at a filling station, such as the one owned by Bob and Mary, never suspecting the drama that dwells within.

For it is in just such a filling station that Bob earns a living for himself and his wife, Mary, charitably using the profits to educate his younger brother, Nate, according to the promise he had made to his mother on her deathbed. To do this, he and Mary have made many sacrifices. Now, Nate is about to graduate from college. Bob is going to attend the graduation, while Mary, (accompanied by the couple's intimate friend and elderly next-door neighbor, Aunt Lou), stays behind to take care of the business. Mary is joyful, believing that Nate's graduation means the end of their sacrifices and the beginning of a new life. She is taken aback when Bob tells her that they must continue to support Nate until he makes a place for himself in the world. After the Church Committee has come to felicitate Bob and has gone with him to the railroad station, Mary tells Aunt Lou of her hatred for Nate and all he has made them suffer and deny themselves. She vows to find a way to make Nate reveal himself as the ingrate he really is.

Scene 2

After a year of laziness and scorn for the honest people around him, Nate has not yet found an outlet for his talents. He lives with Bob and Mary and contributes absolutely nothing to the welfare of the home. In fact, he sleeps while they work. Mary has chosen the method of being sweetly sarcastic to Nate. At the breakfast table, it is apparent that Bob has begun to be aware of the truth behind her barbed remarks. When Nate comes for his breakfast, he is revealed as an egotistical, neurotic, stupid individual who mistakes Mary's sarcasm for flattery, and makes passionate love to her. She responds by laughing at him, scorns him for his weakness, and re-affirms her love for Bob. Enraged, Nate seizes a knife from the table and stabs her. When she screams, Bob and Aunt Lou rush in, the latter immediately going for the Sheriff and the Doctor. Bob, believing Mary dead and still trying to shield his brother, takes the blame. When the Sheriff is about to handcuff him, Mary regains consciousness and cries out that Nate is the culprit. As he is being taken away Nate cravenly begs Bob to save him. Bob falls on his knees at Mary's side with the cry that at last he understands and that the future will be brighter for both of them.

And so, in one of the homes along Highway 1, a drama has been enacted and resolved. No matter whether those of us who drive by know what happened there; it is enough that we buy our gasoline, go on our way, and let Bob and Mary live the life they want to live — together.

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