Job, Thomas. Therese (from Emile Zola’s Thérese Raquin). New York, Los Angeles [etc.]: Samuel French, 1947.
by Kiki Black, Jane E. Bolster, and Robert C. Derosa
In act 1, scene 1, the story takes place in Paris, the spring of 1875. There are four occupants chatting in the living quarters above a milliner’s shop: the owner, Mme. Raquin; her invalid son, Camille; his wife (and cousin), Therese; and Camille’s friend, Laurent, an artist. Camille has designed a hat, which he calls “The Boater,” for a wealthy client, Mme. Louise, who hates it and makes a fuss about it. It’s soon discovered that Therese and Laurent are secret lovers. A friend, Grivet, arrives for a weekly dominoes game, followed by Inspector Michaud and his niece, Suzanne. Inspector M. talks about a murder he encounters on the way, which leads to a discussion of murderers getting away with their crimes. Therese goads Laurent and mocks Camille’s fear of boats which prompts Grivet to say, “Accidents happen anywhere.”
In scene 2, the following Sunday evening in Mme. Raquin’s living room, the adults are waiting for Therese, Laurent, Camille, and Suzanne to return from a boating trip. They are engaged in light conversation while Inspector M. and Grivet play dominoes. Grivet finds Laurent’s unfinished portrait of Camille and calls it “modern” after the Inspector comments on its faceless appearance. Suzanne returns to the house alone; she has missed the rendezvous, and, instead, has spent the day with a Charles Beauchamp. Therese and Laurent eventually return without Camille. Laurent, agitated, explains to Mme. Raquin about the terrible accident of Camille’s drowning. Mme. Raquin is disbelieving until Therese and Laurent convince her that Camille is dead.
In act 2, scene 1, it’s a year later, in the Raquin home, on Therese and Laurent’s wedding eve. Their guests gather in the living room which is swathed in new fabrics, and flowers and candles are everywhere to honor Laurent and Therese’s marriage. Suzanne discovers and displays Laurent’s portrait of a faceless Camille. Suzanne, Mme. Louise, the Inspector, and Grivet make remarks about eeriness of the living room and the house. When Therese and Laurent are alone, they speak of Camille – how he looked faceless at the morgue. Mme. Raquin appears and overhears Therese and Laurent discussing their murder of Camille; Mme. Raquin suffers a paralyzing stroke.
In scene 2, six months later, in a now shabby apartment, Suzanne arrives to announce her engagement to Charles Beauchamp. Therese and Laurent quarrel about their lack of money, Laurent’s drunken ways, the details of Camille’s murder, and the wheelchair-bound Mme. Raquin. Mme. Louise enters, and she and Therese settle on a plan to commit Mme. Raquin to a hospital mental ward, the fees paid by Mme. Louise. Inspector Michaud and Grivet arrive to visit Mme. Raquin. They play dominoes over a discussion about The Market Garden murderer’s conviction and guillotine sentence. Mme. Raquin suddenly moves her hand to form letters with the dominoes to expose the killers: she begins to spell out Laurent’s and Therese’s names, which triggers Laurent’s confession to the drowning murder of Camille. Upon hearing this, Mme. Raquin dies. The Inspector begins his criminal proceedings of Laurent. Therese acknowledges her love for Laurent and says that all four of them – Mme. Raquin, Camille, Laurent and she – will finally be at peace.