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Das Mädl aus der Vorstadt

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Das Mädl aus der Vorstadt
oder Ehrlich währt am längsten

The Girl from the Suburbs
or Honesty Pays in the End

A Farce with songs in 3 Acts
By Johann Nestroy
Premiere: 24th November 1841

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

Kauz, an investor
Frau von Erbsenstein, his niece, a corn merchant's widow
Herr von Gigl, her fiance, distantly related to Kauz
Schnoferl, a private detective (originally played by Nestroy)
Knöpfl, a widower
Peppi, his daughter
Madam Storch, his sister, a widow
Sabine, seamstresses, cousins of Knöpfl's deceased wife
Thecla, an embroiderer
Nanett, maid to Frau von Erbsenstein
Dominik, servant to Herr von Kauz
A grocer, a notary, guests, shopkeepers, clerks, milliners

The action of Acts 1 and 2 takes place in a large town, and of Act 3 in Kauz's house in the country.

Act 1. Frau von Erbsenstein (lit. Peastone), a relatively young widow, complains to her uncle Kauz that her fiance Gigl is beginning to neglect her. - Schnoferl the private detective arrives. [Song, Schnoferl: "People don't have to want everything at once"] - The wealthy Kauz owes Schnoferl 3,000 guilders for his services, but cannot pay because a thief has robbed him of the huge sum of 120,000 guilders. Kauz has told everyone he is sure the thief is Stimmer, who disappeared at the same time as the money. However, Schnoferl has information from a man called Käfer that points to a different culprit. But Kauz is curiously reluctant to pursue that line of enquiry.
By now, Frau von Erbsenstein is beginning to suspect that her fiance is in love with another woman. She decides to employ Schnoferl to discover the truth. - Gigl now arrives, embarrassed at his neglect of his fiancee, and openly admits to Schnoferl that he is in love with the embroiderer Thecla, who has just left town for an undisclosed destination. Schnoferl advises him to forget Thecla and marry the pretty widow at once. He would marry her himself if he was younger. Gigl resigns himself to the wedding, and Schnoferl soothes the jealous bride by dismissing Gigl's feelings for Thecla as a harmless temporary infatuation. - [Song, Frau von Erbsenstein: "In such circumstances one can only be indulgent"]
But Thecla has not left town after all. Encountering Gigl, she explains she can never see him again, hinting at skeletons in the family cupboard. She is alarmed nonetheless by the news of his impending marriage, and runs away in tears. Before Gigl can follow, Kauz drags him off to sign the marriage contract. In despair, Gigl faints in full view of the guests, and to distract attention from this embarrassing occurrence, Frau von Erbsenstein faints even more spectacularly. - [Chorus of guests and Schnoferl]


Act 2. A wedding feast is being prepared and Schnoferl asks Rosalie, Sabine, Peppi and Madame Storch to help cure his lovesick friend Gigl. - Meanwhile Kauz is disturbed by the news that Schnoferl's informant Käfer is back in town. He decides to intercept him before Schnoferl can extract more information from him. - [Duet Rosalie/Schnoferl]
During the preparations for the feast, Thecla once again encounters Gigl, who now tells her he will refuse to wed the widow. Schnoferl is disturbed to see them together, as he senses that Thecla is harbouring some guilty secret. A tearful Thecla agrees to renounce Gigl, but swears she will never love another man. Frau von Erbsenstein arrives and warns Gigl against Thecla, telling him that her father is the suspected thief, Stimmer. Mortified, Thecla faints into Schnoferl's arms.

Act 3. Kauz has found Käfer and paid him 200 ducats to return a compromising letter and leave town before he can be interviewed by Schnoferl. A relieved Kauz puts the letter in his wallet and returns home, where he is enticed into a game of Blind Man's Buff in the garden with Rosalie, Sabine, Peppi and Madame Storch. When it is Kauz's turn to be blindfolded, the girls play a trick on him and hide his coat in a tree, removing his wallet for safe-keeping. Frau von Erbsenstein enters the garden, where Schnoferl has asked her to meet him, and is astonished when she is immediately grabbed by her boisterous and blindfolded uncle. He then becomes preoccupied by the search for his missing coat. In an attempt to clear up one or two mysteries, Schnoferl has also arranged to meet Gigl and Thecla there. Thecla now reveals that on the night of the robbery, her father was at Kauz's home, noticed the cash box had been broken into and immediately took flight, fearing that suspicion would fall on him. He is now living under an assumed name, surviving on whatever money Thecla is managing to send him.
Schnoferl gets his hands on Kauz's wallet, and finds in it a letter addressed to Käfer, offering him 200 ducats to rob Kauz's cash box. It transpires that Kauz has engineered the robbery himself to avoid having to repay part of a legacy. Frau von Erbsenstein begs Schnoferl to keep this discovery secret to avoid a scandal, and out of fondness for her he agrees. Publicly, he tells Thecla that her father is innocent and that Kauz had merely mislaid the money. But privately, he tells Kauz that he must pay a price for the return of the incriminating letter: not only must he pay the 3,000 guilders he owes Schnoferl, but stump up a dowry of 10,000 for Thecla, compensation of 15,000 for her father, and another 10,000 guilders to be distributed among the poor. When Kauz protests, the sum for the poor is increased to 12,000. Frau von Erbsenstein rewards Schnoferl for his services, and his discretion, by offering him her hand in marriage, and a jubilant Gigl is free to marry Thecla.


The Plays of Johann Nestroy. A directory of synopses prepared by Julian Forsyth & Zoe Svenson.
Funded by the Austrian Cultural Forum and Arts Council England. © Moving Theatre 2004