The Butterfly Within
A play in two acts by Thomas M. Kelly
Visitors to the Lower East Side of New York, now called Soho, see very fashionable homes, art galleries, museums and boutiques. The tenements are still there. It used to be a smelly, dirty place teeming with immigrants from every country of the world. Some people were desperate and depraved, creating misery for others. It was very difficult to survive there. There were happy families and good times, but jobs were difficult to find and money was scarce. It was the lowest rung on the ladder climbing to the streets paved with gold. The Lower East Side is where the immigrants first lived after surviving Ellis Island.
In 1966 Fyvush moved his family from his father’s tenement and the inventory from his bookstore to Forest Hills, Long Island, New York. After the death of his beloved wife, Zelda, Fyvush, returns to the playground of his youth: the rooftop of his once rundown tenement. There he finds, among the many changes in his old neighborhood, Mitzi, an eighteen-year-old Korean college student with red hair, sunglasses, hooked up to a cd player, painting sunsets, and demanding that he leave her 'playground'. They eventually grow to tolerate and enjoy each other’s company and Fyvush shares stories of his rooftop experiences. They soon discover that they have a great deal in common: each has something to hide. Fyvush despondent over his wife's suicide, also contemplates suicide and Mitzi's apparent rejection of all things Korean, but finds inner peace secretly dancing traditional Korean mask dances. While on the streets below, she struggles to find her place in American society.