The play takes place in Berlin in the '30s. Meta is Germany's most famous actress, and Oskar, also an actor, is in her shadow, knowing full well he isn't as talented as she is.It opens in their apartment with Oskar on his knees and applauding wildly for Meta because of her brilliant performance. She holds the flowers she received after the performance and is smiling down at him.
We then see Oskar learning lines for a play and being coached by Meta as she helps him with his delivery. She is offered the role of Kate in Taming of the Shrew, but feels too old and jokes they don't have enough make-up. She suggests to the director, Hans Johst, that Oscar should play the part of Petruchio.Oskar states how he loathes that man and doesn't want to work for him.
Meta tells him he is afraid of success, holding back instead of trying for the role of Petruchio. When he says he doesn't have her talent, she scoffs that he doesn't have her will. She then voices concern about Hitler coming into power and that she is a Jew. She states that she took it for granted that civilized people would act in good taste, and says we were crazy -- that screaming little man is now our leader! Oskar says it's foolishness and won't last long.
They are concerned when there is a fire at the Parliament building, wondering what is happening in their country.
Meta calls another actress who got the role of Kate and tells her to look after Oskar. While learning his lines, Meta has them switch roles, and she plays the part of Petruchio, showing him how to be forceful and give a strong performance, stating that he must set an example for German manhood. You are an Aryan, she tells him.
Meta is upset because she can't even attend his performances and realizes she must leave the country, and asks for help to get passage. Meta gives Oskar last minute advice. He is terrified and wants her to go with him to the theater. Meta has to report to get an ID card and is afraid the police will hit her or spit on her, and she is terrified. Oskar says he will be with her and look out for her. He says that she has never needed him before because she is always the boss. Now he can be useful and help her.
Heading off to the theater, Oskar doesn't realize that Meta is packed and ready to leave the country. She is delighted when Oskar returns jubilant because the audience loved him. He says he couldn't have done it without her. His joy turns to grief at the realization she is leaving. He doesn't know what he will do without her. She rushes back into his arms saying that she can't leave him.
And then, Kristallnacht -- Night of Broken Glass. They listen as Jewish buildings and Synagogues are destroyed.