Dutchman is a one-act play. Nearly all of the conflict and interactions in the play happen between the two main characters, Lula, a white woman, and Clay, a black man. The scene opens up with the pair in a New York subway. The audience finds Clay, sitting alone reading a magazine, seemingly oblivious to the presence of the woman sitting down the seat next to him eating an apple. Lula accuses Clay of ogling her, an act he vehemently denies. She then proceeds to accuse him of a couple of racial stereotypes, managing in the process to correctly deduce where Clay lives and where he’s heading. Mysteriously, she even seems to know about Warren—Clay’s friend—giving him details like his appearance and manner of speaking; her nearly supernatural comprehension of his past and intimate details of his life shock Clay.
Lula continues to seduce Clay, provoking him sexually. She teasingly places her hand on his leg and suggestively slices her apple, feeding him the portions. Having correctly guessed his destination, she compels Clay to take her along, suggesting that she’d be willing to sleep with him afterward if she were invited. Her constant baiting gets his notice. Although he is receptive to Lula’s provocations, he does not initiate any direct propositioning for sex. Lula, however, wants Clay to be even more aggressive; seeing that he doesn’t seem to be taking the bait, she grows angry. Her mood and approach shift drastically from seduction to abuse.
Lula insults Clay’s accent, saying that he has no right to wear such a fancy suit; then, she proceeds to berate his lineage. Clay’s responses to Lula change drastically as well, becoming apologetic and defensive where they were previously self-assured and masculine. She continues to berate him, criticizing him for being black and unresponsive, and then she starts to dance alluringly and toss her possessions into the aisle of the car. Other riders begin to populate the car where once it was empty.
Lula invites Clay to dance with her, teasing him, challenging him to “do the nasty” with her. Clay opposes her provocations, but eventually, he is fed up. He grabs her and throws her to the floor, slapping her twice while maligning her background and life of ease. He then orders her to leave him be.
Clay now begins a soliloquy, telling the audience of the challenges that a black person must go through. He rants, asserting that white people still maintain distinctions of culture, happily allowing black artists to perform “black dances” and produce “black music” but not the other way around. He also alleges that these so-called “artistic pursuits” are exploitative at their core, keeping blacks preoccupied enough so they remain disinterested with trying to break into the “white world.” Clay continues his passionate tirade.
All the while, Lula listens, seemingly uninterested. After his monologue, Clay readies himself to leave, but Lula suddenly stands up and dispassionately stabs him in the heart twice. She then commands the other passengers to throw his corpse out at the next stop. Towards the end of the play, Lula makes eye contact with yet another young black man who has just entered the subway car. A black train conductor passes through, respectfully tipping his hat to Lula.
Grace and Easley, a white couple, come home one night. They are frustrated that their city is convulsed by riots carried out by the black liberation movement and combatted by soldiers.
They become aware that Grace’s ex-husband Walker, the leader of the movement, is in their living room holding a gun. Frightened and annoyed, the couple tries to figure out what Walker is doing there.
Walker provokes Easley in particular, and he accuses Grace of leaving him all alone. She defends herself, saying that she had to leave since he was crazy and spoke of killing white people. Walker says he wants their two daughters and is planning to take them, which horrifies Grace.
Easley criticizes Walker for being a bad poet and intellectual, and Walker admits he is torn between Western culture and the realities of being black in America. He hates Easley, mocks his faux-liberalism, and suggests he is gay, but he also says he would rather debate Easley on politics or poetry than converse with his own officers sometimes.
As Walker grows drunker, he becomes more morose. Easley thinks it is the right time to try to tackle Walker. When he does, Walker bests him, pulls out his gun, and shoots him dead. Easley’s last words are “ritual drama,” which is his way of explaining Walker’s feeble attempts to make meaning for himself.
Grace is distraught and begs Walker to leave. She also begs him not to take the girls. A massive explosion rocks the house and Grace is badly hurt. She asks Walker how their children are and Walker tells her matter-of-factly that they are dead. Grace dies.
Walker leaves the house amid the explosions. A child’s voice is heard yelling upstairs.