A Quiet Place Synopsis
Sam's wife Dinah has recently been killed in an alcohol-induced car crash.
Their two grown children, Junior and Dede, return home for their mother's funeral with Dede's husband (and Junior's lover), François. Sam has been estranged from his children for many years—Junior, who is mentally ill, had fled to Canada to dodge the Vietnam draft, and Dede and François live with him there to care for him. After the service, Sam excoriates the three of them, venting his anger, sorrow and confusion in a blistering, wrathful aria ("You're Late").
Junior, confronted by his Father's anger, loses all self-control, stripping off his clothes burlesque-style and accusing his father of killing his mother ("Hey big daddy"). They come to blows over Dinah's coffin, which crashes shut. Sam storms out, followed by Dede and François. Junior, alone, looks over the wreckage of the funeral as an orchestral Postlude, perhaps the most yearning, searching, searing music Bernstein ever wrote, closes the act.
Later that night, Sam reads in Dinah's diaries of her unhappiness and despair, and her anger towards Sam. Nevertheless, he misses her. In a flashback of their lives thirty years ago, Sam and Dinah fight - he escapes to his office and she to her analyst, where she relates a dream of being trapped in a dead garden, but hearing a voice telling her of another garden where 'love will lead us to a quiet place' ("There Is A Garden"). Dede enters, ending Sam's reverie, and together they go through Dinah's closet: Dede tries on Dinah's dress and Sam is stunned at the resemblance - father and daughter finally connect with one another.
Meanwhile, François confronts Junior about his outrageous behavior at the funeral parlor. Junior has a psychotic episode in which he imagines his father shooting him as a child, and taunts François, claiming that Dede will always belong to him alone. François gets Junior into bed and asleep, and he and Dede meet outside where he sings her a passionate aria about how much she means to him ("I've Been Afraid"). More memories are triggered for Sam. In another flashback, Young Sam, having won a handball trophy at the gym, sings a virile aria, "There's A Law", about winners and losers, putting himself squarely in the former category. Meanwhile, Dinah goes to the movies and sees a terrible musical, which she mocks in the bravura aria "What A Movie". At home later that night, the two are unable to reconcile. After faltering, half-hearted attempts at addressing the widening gulf of silence and resentment between them, Sam suggests they go see a movie – "something about 'Tahiti'". As Dinah dresses to see the same terrible film she saw just a few hours ago, they mourn the magic lost between them, now available only on the silver screen. Back in the present, Sam watches over his sleeping son, unable to bring himself to kiss him goodnight.
The next morning finds Dede weeding her mother's garden ("Mommy, are you there?"), and she and Junior play games from their childhood. François and Sam enter and join in. At the height of their game of tag, François hurtles into Sam's arms – Sam embraces him and welcomes him to the family. Sam reads passages from Dinah's diary, including one in which she expresses her love for her family and wishes that they could learn to accept one another. Moved, Dede suggests they might stay on with Sam a few days – but they lose the thread of the tentative happiness they'd found as a discussion of who will sleep in which room becomes another fight. Dede starts to run off and Junior tosses Dinah's diary into the air. Junior tells Sam "it hurts so much to mean so much to you" and Sam finally embraces his son. François in turn reaches out to Dede, who takes a tentative step towards him as the curtain falls.
Synopsis via LeonardBernstein.com