In the opening act, we meet Peter and Mary ideal consumers who use their combined incomes to afford an elegant home and above-average lifestyle, including a baby boy and the impending adoption of a Chinese orphan.
To this self-indulgent couple, their problems are overwhelming: rising debt, an inability to quit smoking, an irritating baby who won’t stop crying, and an unsatisfactory friendship with their newly divorced best friend, Mark. They have invited Mark to dinner to tell him that they no longer want his friendship.
Equally childish, Peter and Mary pursue separate agendas, united in an unhealthy dependence for emotional reinforcement since neither seems capable of making decisions alone. They are defined by their infantile needs and shallow opinions of society’s expectations rather than any meaningful connection to the world at large: “We have some friends who lost their house. That got us in touch with poverty.”
When Mark arrives for dinner, he is accompanied by a “special friend” - the twenty-one-year-old Paula, a frequent but uncommitted sexual partner. The plan goes early awry in a confusion of intimate confessions and a growing sexual tension, Peter and Mary jockeying for emotional dominance of a situation that will leave the weaker to suffer in silence on the sidelines.
Peter, Mary and Mark reveal themselves as callous opportunists too immature for the parenthood they readily endorse and given to easy self-gratification. Even Paula is devoid of innocence, already corrupted by the casual physicality of her lifestyle: “I’ve only been drinking to get drunk for two or three years.”
In the final act, Peter and Mary come full circle, victims of their own faults, their early rebellions reduced to bleats of discontent. More encumbered than when they began, the couple stubbornly persists, propped up by expediency, ill-prepared to meet the future.
Fueled by alcohol and an increasing lack of inhibitions, The Leisure Society is a scathing indictment of Western society, instant gratification and the rampant consumerism that obliterates the human face of a generation driven to acquire while emoting a crackling dissatisfaction with life as they know it.