Tom, the play's narrator as well as its male lead, is also more complex than what we may remember as a portrait of the artist as a young martyr. Obviously the playwright's alter ego, Tom tries to write poetry in the bathroom at work and in the dining room at home, but his mother's persistent harping about money, manners, and finding a gentleman caller for Laura strangles his muse. But Tom, Brandhagen makes clear, is no saintly victim; he's as flawed as the father who deserted the family 16 years earlier. He stays out late every night, not to work on his poems or to take classes, but to drink, grumble, and sit in darkened movie theaters. Perpetually unshaven and heavy-lidded, with his tie always pulled down two buttons below the collar, Brandhagen seems to be begging for someone to fire him from his job or to kick him out of his house.