Dining room in a Lennox Avenue apartment house, New York, on a hot summer evening. Helen and her boarder Lehman return home from the theatre. Helen comments about the lovers on stage, and Lehman says she is more beautiful than the actress and could become one herself. He grabs Helen and kisses her passionately. When she gets angry at him, Lehman says it is her fault. Helen says she will tell her husband and evict him if he cannot control himself, but Lehman says she won’t do that because she knows she is also at fault and she should just forgive and forget. Helen tells him that it is not her fault if a “fire” has erupted from his friendly feelings towards her. Lehman tells her that he has had a lot of experience with women in his work as an insurance agent –– but he has never met anyone like her. Helen is curious how he sees her, and Lehman begins to flirt some more, so Helen opens the windows in hopes some cool air will bring him back to his senses. She says his compliments are simply how he has learned to talk to his female customers. The clock strikes six, almost time for Helen’s husband Max to return home, and she realizes she has not prepared dinner. It turns out Helen already ate a steak at a restaurant with Lehman. Lehman says that if he was married, he would not expect his wife to cook in this heat –– he would take her out to a restaurant. Since Helen and Max have debts, he offers to treat them to dinner, although Helen refuses. Lehman tells her she is afraid of her husband, and she gets quiet and says Max deserves a better wife than her. Lehman says he has known Max longer than she has and, based on what he knows, it would be justified to take her away from him by force. He says she is a glorified cook whose husband can’t afford to give her pleasure, and she will only become more enslaved if she has children. Lehman claims that when Max says he would rather live with Helen in a tent alone than to live in a palace with boarders, that it is because he is jealous of the fact Lehman can sometimes take Helen to the theatre. Helen says she feels guilty accepting these invitations, but Lehman tells her it is harmless to accompany a friend to the theatre. Helen says she wishes Max earned more so she could afford a servant, nice clothes, and “good times.” She hears Max coming down the hall and tells Lehman to go to his room so they can avoid an argument. Max says he finds it impossible to come home before his boarder, and asks Lehman when he left the office; Lehman says he does not live for work. After Lehman leaves the room, Max tells Helen he envies the boarder’s carefree life as a bachelor without family responsibilities. He notices the theatre program, but does not say anything. Instead he asks about dinner, and when Helen suggests they go to a restaurant, he says (struggling to control himself) that she does not need to cook but if he comes home hungry he wants there to be food in the house. Helen goes to prepare some food for him, and Max tears up the theatre program, saying that because Helen’s “job” as his wife is secure she does not need to put in much effort. They quarrel over whether to eat in the kitchen or the dining room, on when Max is leaving on vacation, and the way Helen packs his suitcase and how she fails to darn his socks. Max says he does not like working in an office any more than she likes being a homemaker, and wishes he could afford to give her the pleasures she wants in life, but he cannot. He fetches Lehman, who has been listening at his door. Lehman resists being drawn into the family quarrel, but Max insists. He says he can no longer stand Lehman’s intimate relations with his wife, gathers his things, and wishes Lehman and Helen a nice life together. Max walks out, leaving the other two in shock.