Choral
Pooch (the musical)

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Thursday, May 7th, 2009 2:28 PM EDT

SYNOPSIS

The action takes place in the Pyncheon family's House of Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts, about 1850.
 
Dominating the gloom is a huge portrait of Colonel Pyncheon, long-dead patriarch. According to his will, the portrait may never be touched.
 
ACT I. Hepzibah Pyncheon comforts her brother, Clifford, home after years in prison for murder. He is weak and disoriented but rages at the thought of his cousin, Jaffrey, on whom he vows revenge. Hepzibah's young cousin Phoebe arrives. Orphaned and homeless, Phoebe seeks a temporary place to stay. Hepzibah tries to frighten her off but Clifford reappears and is delighted by the girl. Hepzibah allows her to remain.
 
The next morning Phoebe meets a boarder, Holgrave, who styles himself a student of Pyncheon family history. He relates that thirty years ago, Clifford was found guilty - on flimsy evidence - of murdering his wealthy uncle Peter. The fortune which would have gone to Clifford instead went to Jaffrey. A growing attraction between Holgrave and Phoebe is interrupted by the arrival of Jaffrey himself; he tries unsuccessfully to see Clifford and vows to return. Holgrave tells Phoebe the grim story of her family's curse: in 1692 a farmer, Matthew Maule, lived on land which Colonel Pyncheon desired. The Colonel started a rumor that Maule was a witch, leading to his execution. On the gallows, Maule cried out to Colonel Pyncheon: "GOD WILL GIVE YOU BLOOD TO DRINK!" The Colonel seized the dead man's land and built on it the House of Seven Gables.
 
In a flashback to 1693, a housewarming party is in progress. Guests gossip about a deed to a huge territory that the Colonel has obtained and will soon present in court, thereby becoming rich. Until this happens, however, the deed is worthless. Thomas Maule, son of the hanged man, enters. It is he whom the Colonel hired to build the house. Thomas boasts of his skill. Suddenly the Colonel is discovered dead, choked on his own blood. The guests recall Maule's curse. As the flashback scene fades away, Holgrave recounts that other Pyncheons have succumbed to this curse, obsessed with finding the deed which disappeared at the Colonel's death. Alone, Clifford reflects on the night uncle Peter died and imagines himself the murderer.
 
ACT II. In the garden Holgrave practices a new art: photography. While setting up the camera he flirts with Phoebe. Clifford, appearing hardier, revels in the peace wrought by nature. Holgrave asks Clifford what he looks for in the parlor every night, but Clifford can't remember. Phoebe accuses Holgrave of withholding knowledge which might help her family. He admits to harboring a secret. Phoebe and Holgrave profess their love. A gathering crowd cheers Jaffrey in his campaign for governor. To the crowd Clifford denounces Jaffrey as uncle Peter's murderer.
 
ACT III. In the parlor, Jaffrey demands to see Clifford. Hepzibah refuses, but when Jaffrey threatens to commit Clifford as insane, based on yesterday's public outburst, Hepzibah complies. Clifford and Jaffrey confront each other. Jaffrey believes his cousin knows where the long-lost deed is hidden. Clifford shrugs; his calm self-possession starts to unnerve Jaffrey. As they relive the night of their uncle's death, Clifford, now the stronger of the two, forces Jaffrey to confess that he framed Clifford. In a frenzy Jaffrey imagines that the deed is hidden in the mirror and smashes the glass. He begins to cough blood and falls dead.
 
One week later Phoebe and Holgrave are married. To Clifford and Hepzibah's astonishment, Holgrave reveals himself as a descendant of Matthew Maule. He also reveals the location of the deed: a hidden compartment behind the Colonel's portrait. When Thomas Maule built the house, to avenge his father's death, he fashioned the recess and stuck the deed inside. Because the Colonel himself willed that the portrait never be disturbed, the deed could never be found - a secret the Maules have kept for generations. Thus the Colonel surrendered his great territory for a few acres of stolen ground. All rejoice, throw open the windows and praise the light.