Scene 1. Beyle, the cook, complains about working for such a cheap mistress.
Scene 2. Reb Alter, the book peddler, arrives. He has nothing against the mistress, but says she doesn’t spend what she used to on books, and ever since going abroad, she speaks almost no Yiddish. Beyle says her masters are too busy playing cards to have time to read. Reb Alter adds that ever since the Zionists started publishing books, his business has fallen off. But he has nothing against the Zionists or the ‘tsetselistn’ (Socialists); both of them work for noble causes.
Scene 3. Chaim, a servant, comes looking for Fradl, the servant he’s wooing. He tells Beyle and Alter how useless his employers are, and how they constantly curse each other.
Scene 4. Fradl enters, singing about getting married. Chaim tells her he’s ready. He talks to Reb Alter about the romances he’s reading, but it’s clear that Chaim hasn’t been able to keep track of most of the details. Misha and Masha, the bosses’ children, enter.
Scene 5. The servants send the children (who speak half Russian, half Yiddish) to get something to eat.
Scene 6. Fradl complains about how badly she is treated in front of the guests. Alter, awakened from a tipsy slumber, leads the other servants in a rendition of the folksong “Tsen brider” (Ten Brothers). Misha and Masha return, having filled their pockets with goodies.
Scene 7. Reb Alter and Chaim, boasting of Jews’ ability to hold their liquor, drink more and lead the children in singing and dancing “Vos mir zenen, zenen mir” (We Are What We Are).
Scene 8. Fradl enters, astonished at Chaim’s drinking. He gives her a golden necklace as an engagement present; she pretends to push him away. Alter and Chaim keep drinking, and the women join in, and everyone sings and dances. The scene grows more raucous, with Chaim shouting “Mazl-tov!” (congratulations) and breaking plates. The Madame’s nose enters, followed by Madame herself.
Scene 9. She fires Chaim, who takes it coolly. The servants sing and dance, bringing the Madame into the circle until she breaks away. Then the guests come in and freeze in a tableau as the final curtain.