The Frogs - PLOT SYNOPSIS

2004 Broadway
The Frogs The Musical - PLOT SYNOPSIS



Act I

The play opens with two "actors," played by the same actors as the main characters of the play but considered different in the libretto, discussing which play they should perform. One actor suggests "the one about the man who kills his father and sleeps with his mother", but the other actor is in too good a mood for tragedy and they decide to perform a comedy instead. However, before they can perform, they must make a prayer offering the performance to the gods of the theatre, and instruct the audience in how to behave. Just as it looks like they are about to delay the real play further, the Chorus enters and demands that the actors start.

The Actors return as Dionysus, god of wine and drama, and his slave Xanthias. Dionysus is in despair about the state of the world, and has decided to travel to Hades to bring back the great writer George Bernard Shaw, who Dionysus believes will speak to society and help with its problems. His first stop is at the house of his half-brother Heracles to gain advice on how to enter Hades. Heracles says that Dionysus should don a lion-skin and pretend to be Heracles, and instructs the rather weak-willed god in proper heroic behaviour. The lesson seems to take, although Dionysus soon reverts to his old self. Heracles also warns them of the Frogs, dangerous creatures who live on the River Styx and are terrified of change.

They then travel to the Styx, where they meet the severely depressive ferryman, Charon. Charon agrees to take Xanthias and Dionysus to the Underworld, and claims that there are no Frogs on the river. Traveling on the River, Dionysus recounts the (mythologically accurate) story of his deceased wife Ariadne. When he took her to Mount Olympus to marry her, she was worried that she could not compare to the Olympian gods, he made her a crown of stars to help her look like a goddess. However, as she was only a mortal, she died soon afterwards, and Dionysus threw her crown back into the sky. He says he is glad that there are no stars in Hell.

Later that night, Dionysus is awoken by a cry of "brek-ek-ek-ek!" He soon works out that the Frogs have come; they drag him out of the boat and tempt him into a life of frogdom, hopping around without any cares or worries. Although Dionysus is briefly rescued by Xanthias, the Frogs return while Xanthias is distracted, and drag Dionysus back into the water.


Act II

Dionysus climbs back on the boat drenched and covered with weeds, still quivering from his horrible confrontation with the frogs. Undaunted, Charon steers them to the dock, where Dionysus and Xanthias disembark. They run into Dionysian worshipers, but Xanthias reminds Dionysus of their mission, and they continue to the Palace of Pluto.

Aeakos, keeper of the keys to the palace, sees Dionysus in his Heracles disguise and vows vengeance on the god who slew the three-headed watchdog of Hades. As Xanthias, at Dionysus's urging, dons Heracles's suit, they encounter Charisma, the beautiful handmaiden to Persephone. Mistaking Xanthias for Heracles, she invites him to a sensuous bath in hippopotamus milk. Tantalized, Dionysus takes back the lion skin and encounters Virilla, Queen of the Amazons, who accuses Dionysus (dressed again as Heracles) of stealing the girdle of her leader Hippolyte.

At the height of all the confusion, Pluto enters, surrounded by the flames of Hades. Dionysus sheds his Heracles disguise, and Pluto welcomes the god with open arms, disabusing him of the misconception that Hades is a dangerous place.

Dionysus tells Pluto of his plan to bring Shaw back to earth, and Pluto reveals that all the dead playwrights are banqueting at his palace at that very moment. As Pluto and Dionysus discuss the dire situation on Earth, the Greek Chorus offers and ironic commentary to the audience: though serious matters are being weighed onstage, there is no cause for alarm.

Following the banquet, Dionysus bursts out of the palace to proclaim the entrance of George Bernard Shaw and his loyal passel of Shavians. When William Shakespeare emerges from the palace, the philosophical tension between the two titans escalates swiftly until they almost come to blows. Dionysus defuses the situation by declaring a contest between the two playwrights. Each will address the important issues of humanity using only the words of his own writings.

The supporters of Shaw and Shakespeare assemble into an arena where the verbal battle begins. Dionysus, high in his referee's chair, calls out the topics: first woman, then man, then the Life Force. Shaw and Shakespeare are pointed in their responses, Shaw delivering his pointed orations and Shakespeare responding with his poetic imagery.

Grappling for a final topic (and concerned whether the people of earth will accept Shaw's rigorous social views), Dionysus calls a time-out. His deceased wife Ariadne appears, comforting her husband and advising him to follow his heart. Looking lovingly into Dionysus's eyes, Ariadne assures him that the final topic is "staring you in the face".

The contest resumes, and Dionysus announces the final topic: Death. Shaw responds with a stirring passage from Saint Joan, and the crowd is hushed. Then Shakespeare speaks of death from an old man's point of view. Dionysus, wanting to hear more asks him to speak of a young man's feelings. Shakespeare's response is the song "Fear No More" from Cymbeline. The powerful poetry moves Dionysus to declare Shakespeare the winner and offer him passage to the world of the living. A disgruntled Shaw is dragged kicking and screaming from the stage as Charon the boatman announces the return trip. Xanthias, who has elected to remain in Hades with the Amazon Virilla, bids his master farewell, as the voices of Ariadne and the chorus accompany Dionysos home. Dionysus and Shakespeare arrive back at the same theatre that the actors were at in the beginning. Dionyus beckons Shakespeare to speak, and the playwright responds by calling for a new play to be written to inspire humanity. As the entire company is revealed, Dionysus steps forward and addresses the audience. He urges us to shake off lethargy, to take action to resolve the earthly problems that plague our times. And with that, his mission is complete.


Other Songs: The Frogs Musical Songs Lyrics
Synopsis to The Frogs the Musical Plot