The Great Persuader
is a merry song and dance trip aboard a hard working 1880's steamboat named the Merry-Gold.
The human atmosphere along America's inland rivers at that time was a vibrant mix of Victorian reserve and frontier democracy.
Those ideals often collided in rather entertaining ways ...
The play has a single set, the boat's passenger salon,
a kind of hotel lobby where passengers who are renting staterooms can congregate.
There is a door at rear stage center leading to an outside promenade from which boarding passengers enter the salon.
At one of the end of the salon (which would be to the boat's fore) are the
entrances to two passageways, one to the boat's Dining Area, the other to the Men's Staterooms. At opposition on the set two other passageways lead to the
Ladies Rooms and to the Family Rooms, in front of which are a few sturdy childrens' toys and a trash receptacle. A chandelier would not be out of place,
nor an upright piano if there is room. The lighting fixtures on the walls, in mimed use in Act Two, would be of gas or oil varieties.
Act One is by day, Act Two at night.
To set the set in perspective, the Merry-Gold is a sternwheeler (a single paddlewheel at its stern).
Its machinery, cargo, and any deck passengers would be on the main, or cargo, deck.
The staterooms and salon would be on the second deck, known as the boiler deck,
surrounded by an roofed outer walkway, or promenade. An open area above that was known has the hurricane deck from which rose the pilot house.
Some boats had a short extension of the pilot house that was known as the texas (small "t") deck.
Other hidden details of steamboat construction and operation are mentioned in the dialogue.
Jenny - she's lively 20-25-ish, attractive on a low budget.
She retains some underlying diffidence from having grown up in an underclass situation,
but still has also the impulsive drive by which she escaped to seek her desires,
and at the same time can become sensitive to the concept of fairplay.
Gary - he's both buoyant and and mature; serious about his desires, 25-30-ish.
Self-confidant and ambitious, tasteful in his dress.
Jared - eager but ineffective, wishes to be like Gary but lacks the intellect, self-discipline, and agility.
Can be played as youngish 20s or over-the-hill 40s. Clothes and portmanteau are inexpensive.
Abner Elm - The Great Persuader. Wordly-wise, 35-ish, rogueish but not cruel, sly and inventive.
Being upbeat is his stock and trade. Dress is tasteful, slightly more noticeable than Gary's.
Mrs. Markey - elderly but able, with no regrets about her long housewifery past
but with a present curiosity and eagerness to learn all about things she has missed, including the workings of a steamboat.
Her clothing would be particular to her but not wildly eccentric.
Georgia - late middle-aged, distinguished-looking, conservatively modish, self-assured,
with a tendency to be impulsive.
Caroline - Georgia's widowed sister, more comfortably dressed, and less forward, but capable
of being efficiently assertive when needed.
Captain Berdat - He's firm, 40-ish, plus or minus. Strongly expressive about his satisfaction with the beauties
of his river life and equally opinionated on, and dedicated to, his strict ideas of moral behavior.
His uniform makes his official status clear, but no more.
Slater - central to much of the action despite his minor official status,
he is in his upper teens, industrious but unpolished. When mentally unburdened he walks and moves to some inner lively tune,
when burdened he agonizes. His uniform is one possibility of what a combination porter and purser might respectably wear.