Cynthia Muldoon, a gorgeous woman in her thirties, enters the drawing room to find Simon. They embrace and kiss. Birdboot, from the audience, finds himself infatuated with the actress and calls her a “vision of eternal grace, a poem.” Despite their romantic bond, Cynthia says she still loves Albert, her long-lost husband who wandered out onto the cliffs ten years earlier, never to be seen again. Simon sternly tells her that Albert is a lost cause, but Cynthia won’t hear it. She accuses him of philandering and Simon threatens he'll “kill anyone who comes between us.”
Mrs. Drudge reenters the room and gathers the Manor’s residents for a game of cards. Magnus, the crippled half-brother of Albert Muldoon, wheels down the stairs and knocks Simon to the ground. When Felicity appears back in the drawing-room, she is surprised to see that Simon has not left. She does not know of the romance between Simon and Cynthia.
The conversation becomes full of comic double-meaning when the card game begins. Magnus, for example, pulls Cynthia aside to ask, “Will Simon and you always be partnered against me, Cynthia?” In one sense, he is referring to the card game — Simon and Cynthia have teamed up against Magnus and Felicity. But Magnus’ question is also a profession of his love for Cynthia, and he says of Simon, “I’ll kill him if he comes between us!”
As the game proceeds, the conversation lands on Simon’s romantic encounters. Cynthia learns that Simon and Felicity met the previous night, and Felicity accuses Simon of ‘cheating.’ As with Magnus’ earlier question, this accusation could refer either to the game of cards or to Simon’s habit of philandering. Briefly, the four players turn to a discussion of the escaped madman, but the conversation becomes heated. In the heat of the moment, Felicity exits and Magnus goes to “oil my gun,” which is slang for “use the bathroom,” albeit with a possibly violent undertone.
When Cynthia and Simon are alone once again, she inquires further into his relationship with Felicity. She threatens, ““If I find that you have been untrue to me — if I find that you have falsely seduced me from my dear husband Albert — I will kill you Simon Gascoyne.” This is the end of the Act I of the play-within-a-play, and “perfunctory applause” can be heard. The dead body has yet to be discovered by any of the characters, even though the couch was rolled sideward so that the body is once again sprawled out on the open floor. Moon and Birdboot, as expected, are completely preoccupied with themselves as the act concludes.
Double entendre figures prominently into the comical conversation that transpires between the individuals at the Muldoon Manor. For example, during the card game, Felicity says, “I’ve had my turn, haven’t I, Simon? — now, it seems, it’s Cynthia’s turn” (12). At face value, Felicity is simply talking about playing cards, but she seems to also be making a snide remark about the way that Simon plays women. As another example:
FELICITY: I hear there’s a dangerous madman on the loose.
SIMON: Yes—yes—sorry. [Plays].
Again, at face value, Cynthia’s question, “Simon?” is just her way of cueing his turn to lay down cards. But read another way, it is a response to Felicity’s statement about the madman on the loose. Cynthia guesses that Simon is the madman, and comically, Simon says, “Yes—yes [...]” as if submitting to the accusation.
These double entendres represent the breakdowns of communication that are characteristic of absurdist plays. As friends, we would expect the four players to be able to communicate with one another. But not so. The conversation is comically confused, as the jargon of the card game intertwines with the discussion of Simon’s romances and the madman. The breakdown of communication serves a few purposes. First, it pushes the plot forward. When Cynthia unknowingly accuses Simon of being the madman, for example, it plants that same suspicion in the reader’s mind. Is Simon just a red herring, or is he truly the murderer? Second, the breakdown underscores the shortcomings of language. There is a communication gap between these individuals, even though they seem to be well-educated and well-spoken.
Moon and Birdboot experience a different sort of communication breakdown. Rather than loading their conversations with double meaning (although occasionally they do), the two critics simply do not listen to one another. For example, when Moon offers a critical analysis of the play, citing Simon as “the son [Cynthia] never had, projected in this handsome stranger and transformed into lover,” Birdboot replies, “By Jove, I think you’re right. Her mouth is open.” Both become frustrated by the disjunction of their dialogue.
As in the last section, another parallel emerges between Birdboot and Simon. When Cynthia enters onstage, both men fall for her — Birdboot for the actress, and Simon for the character. Moreover, both of them prefer Cynthia (or the actress that plays Cynthia) to Felicity (or the actress that plays Felicity). Even as they deny accusations of philandering, neither can resist the allure of the women around them.
Finally, death threats abound in this section of the play. Simon threatens to kill anyone who comes between him and Cynthia. Magnus does the same. Cynthia threatens to kill Simon if he falsely seduces her, and Magnus announces that he will go “oil [his] gun,” a phrase that means, “use the bathroom,” but in the context of a murder mystery seems loaded with meaning (pun intended). In previous sections, Felicity issues a death threat to Simon, Moon wishes Higgs were dead, and Birdboot says he wouldn’t be seen dead with a particular woman. No doubt this flood of death threats is intended to have a comical effect. Every person wrapped up in (or watching) the murder mystery uses suspicious language, with the exception of Mrs. Drudge. In terms of plot, it gives us reason to believe that any one of them is a murderer.