Artie Shaughnessy appears on stage at the El Dorado Bar and Grill, sits down at the piano and begins to sing. His request for the lights to dim and a spotlight to single him out go unmet which results in a fit of frustration that builds into outright anger with the realization that his songs are also being ignored by the house audience. Upon completing his set to an utter lack of applause, he makes a quick exist.
It is nighttime and Artie is in his ramshackle Queens apartment sleeping. In a sleeping bag. On the sofa. Suddenly his 17 year old kid Ronnie breaks his way into the apartment clad in Army fatigues, but makes a stealthy escape undetected at the sound of the doorbell. When Artie rises to open the door, he is met by Bunny Flingus, his pleasantly plump main squeeze. Bunn is in a very agitated state of excitement at the possibility of actually getting to see the Pope in the flesh on his visit to New York. Artie remains unimpressed.
Very quickly Bunny deduces that Artie’s sour mood is the result of his amateur night performance down at the El Dorado. She tries to be supportive, but can’t help rising to anger. Right at the height of their intensifying discourse, Bananas Shaughnessy appears from out of her bedroom. She takes a moment to watch Bunny and her husband together and then quickly disappears back inside the bedroom.
The recently awakened Artie announces that he is hungry and tries to convince Bunny to cook up something real quick, but she’s got to get dressed so they can go down together and maybe get another peek at the Pope. When Artie responds to Banana’s call, Bunny makes herself scarce in the kitchen. Banana’s rather rapid trip from quiet hiding to hysterical wife demanding to know if Artie simply hates her indicates a mental disturbance in the force of the apartment. When she demands to know if he’s got plans to abandon her, Artie responds by making her take her pills and then announces he is only going out to check out the Pope. Bananas cryptically responds to this news by informing him that she cannot possibly go out and see the Pope when she’s got fingernails of uneven length.
Before he can move to obstruct her, Bananas is in the kitchen and the sight of Bunny there makes her suddenly start acting like a crazed animal. Bunny informs the audience of her most fervent desire: that Bananas was dead.
She then drop the big bomb: Artie is going to leave Bananas for her. Artie protests while Bunny pushes forward her sensible plan for Bananas to head to Mexico for a quickie divorce. Finally, Artie lets Bananas know that he has found a hospital where she can get treatment for her mental disturbance while Bunny tells her of their plans to move to California and pursue Artie’s dream of becoming a songwriter. The plan is dependent assistance from Billy who is not only a director, but Artie’s friend so Bunny now turns her attention to getting Artie to ring up Billy and let him know of this plan. When Artie hangs up the phone, Bunny is overjoyed and finally leaves. Artie decides he needs a shower as well as deciding that now is the time to inform Bananas that he has grown weary of taking care of her.
This news has a strange soothing effect on Bananas. She launches into recalling the exact moment that her grip on reality started getting loose. Artie seems genuinely moved by her story and is moved to insist she come and see the Pope because, after all, miracles do happen. At that point, the Pope is appearing on TV and so they sit back and watch him for a little while before Bananas head back to her bedroom and Artie gets up and hugs the TV set.
When Bunny returns, she brings news that the Pope has arrived. As she goes into the kitchen, Bananas appears from her room dressed in clothes and shoes that don’t match. When Bunny realizes what is going on, she gets angry, but nevertheless joins them as a trio to head down to see the Pope. At the sound of their exit, Ronnie slips out of his room holding a gift-wrapped box of rather notable size.
Act II, Scene 1
Ronnie is dressing for his role as altar boy as he muses about the first time he and Billy met. Ronnie so desperately wanted to win the role of Huck Finn that he wound up acting a like a complete moron to the point that Billy honestly thought Ronnie just be might retarded. Of course, it may simply have been the case that Ronnie’s low self-esteem merely made him believe that Billy seriously thought he might be retarded. Ronnie often feels as though everybody is laughing at him. Which is probably why he has been building a bomb. At the sound of the key in the front door, Ronnie takes the bomb back to his bedroom.
Artie comes inside, leaving the presence of Corrinna Stroller to fill the doorway. Corrinna is Billy’s girlfriend and her looming presence catches him by surprise. Corrinna, it turns out, is also hearing impaired to the point of needing hearing aids. When Bunny arrives, she instantly transforms into Artie’s personal manager by making a big display of fawning over Corrinna while also letting her know what a terrific talent her Artie is. As Artie launches into a song, three nuns show up 0utside the window. They somehow managed to get locked out up on the roof in their attempt to catch a glimpse of the Pope. Against Bunny’s wishes, Artie takes mercy on them and lets them in.
Following introductions of everyone, Bunny makes a concerted effort to have everyone think badly of Bananas. Bananas does no great help to her case by confusing Brillo cleaning pads with hamburgers and burning herself while trying to make sandwiches. Artie again launches into a song for the benefit of Corrinna when Bananas pleads with him to sing an old song that turns out to be same tune as “White Christmas.” A mortified Artie forces Bananas to take her pills again, but the pills wind up actually being parts used in Corrinna’s hearing aid. Artie then places a call to the mental hospital with the request for them to come and take Bananas.
Ronnie suddenly appears and announces that he has built a bomb and plans to blow up the Pope. His pronouncement falls on deaf ears as Corrinna tells Artie that she and Billy have decided to move to Australia. Just before she leaves, she remembers the two tickets to see the Pope when he delivers mass at Yankee Stadium which she hands over to the nuns. Just then, an MP from the Army shows up to arrest Ronnie on charges of going AWOL. Ronnie hands his gift-wrapped package to Corrinna before he leaves.
The bomb explodes, killing Corrinna and two of the nuns.
Act II, Scene 2
It is later the same day and Artie and Billy are watching the Pope deliver mass on the TV. Billy is devastated by the loss of Corrinna. Artie’s attempts at comforting him is punctuated by reminders of his own career plans. Bananas comes out the bedroom wearing an old gown and we learn that Billy is the one who gave Bananas her unique nickname. Just then the lone surviving nun breathlessly shows up flustered over not being able to get the hot water to turn off. Bananas lets Artie know she her most fervent desire is to see Bunny burn in her apartment downstairs because then maybe he wouldn’t like her quite so much. When Billy learns that the nun’s two friends also died in the explosion, he is moved to get Ronnie out of jail.
While he calls the jail, Bunny shows up. Only after announcing that he’s taken care of Ronnie does it become apparent that Billy has no idea Ronnie was responsible for the bomb that killed Corrinna. When Billy remembers that he still has the two tickets to Australia, he impulsively asks Bunny to come with him. She eagerly leap at the chance while the nun announces she is not returning to her convent. Realizing that Bunny is about to leave behind an empty apartment, he gives the nun money so she can move in, providing she agrees to help Artie care for Bananas.
Artie makes a last ditch effort to sell Billy on his songwriting talent as Billy and Bunny prepare to head Down Under. Billy leaves on the advice that Artie’s life is about taking care of Bananas, not pursuing a dream that will never come true. When everyone else has left, Bananas begins acting like a wild animal again.
Artie grabs her around the neck and chokes the life out of her.