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Political Satire Meets Romantic Comedy
The play opens in Suite 67D of a swanky Washington, D.C., hotel. It is shortly after World War II.
In the room is Paul Verall, a reporter for the New Republic. He has come to interview Harry Brock, an opportunistic businessman who has made his fortune buying and selling scrap metal.
Soon, Harry Brock and his entourage arrive, including his cousin Eddie and his lawyer, Ed Devery. Ed is a Washington lawyer who once had a bright future ahead of him, but who’s cynicism has led him to work for Harry. Also accompanying Brock is Billie Dawn, his beautiful but naïve girlfriend.
Ed has convinced Brock to make Paul an ally to better control Harry’s public image and prevent the reporter from digging deeper into Harry’s affairs.
After Paul leaves, Senator Norval Hedges and his wife arrive to meet with Harry. Billie joins the group, but says all the wrong things, quickly revealing her lack of education.
As Harry and the senator talk, Harry reveals that he hopes to take advantage of the scrap metal left behind in Europe after the war. He has hatched a scheme to import the scrap metal back to the United States and doesn’t want to bother with tariffs and other regulations. Harry will pay Senator Hedges in exchange for a new Hedges-Keller Amendment, which will guarantee that the government will not interfere in free enterprise.
After Senator Hedges and his wife leave the hotel, Harry worries aloud to Ed that Billie will be a hitch in his plans. Although she doesn’t know it, Billie owns more of his company than he does.
Harry decides to hire Paul to “smarten her up.”
Two months have passed.
Billie has proven to be an eager student of Paul’s. With his guidance, Billie has gained a broader understanding of government and the ideals of American democracy. She also begins to question her relationship with Harry and how she is treated.
When Billie is asked by Harry to sign some documents, she soon realizes that Harry’s schemes are unfair and corrupt. She refuses to sign without learning more, sensing that something is amiss. Harry flies into a rage. Harry strikes Billie, revealing the extent of his emotional and physical abuse.
Frightened, Billie signs the documents and flees the hotel room.
Billie sneaks back into the hotel room with Paul’s help. The two steal the incriminating documents and embrace. It is clear that Billie and Paul have fallen for each other.
Harry returns to the room and announces that Billie’s tutoring with Paul will end immediately and that he has decided to marry her. Billie rejects his offer and reveals that she has taken the documents and given them to Paul to publish in the New Republic.
Though Harry is furious, Billie refuses to back down. Billie realizes that she has power over Harry.
Paul and Billie exit, leaving Harry shocked that Billie has thwarted him.