Chanukah/Christmas 1899 Bialystok
Greyseh Zaydie - Avram - Born in 1800, passed away peacefully twelve years ago. Was a humble Bransk tailor until his son's first wife died in childbirth. At forty-nine years old, moved with his son to Bialystok to start a textile firm which became incredibly successful thanks to Avram's designs and Izheh's good business sense. After a few years, work was too busy and Izheh's new wife Rivkeh, conveniently sends Aynshel back to Bransk to live with his aunt and uncle on a stipend. Izheh rarely ever sees his first son but knows Aynshel must come to celebrate Izheh's seventieth birthday.
Greyseh Bubbie - Suri - Ninety-two. Religious fanatic, peasant, never acclimated to city life. As pessimistic as her son is optimistic. Uncomfortable with having servants. Warns that departing from Hashem will lead to catastrophe. Married to Avram for fifty-six years before he died in 1887. Knows that Yankl is carrying on with her servant, Zygfrida, and uncomfortably mentions it at the dinner table.
Zaydie - Izheh: exactly seventy. Play takes place on his birthday, Chanukah/Christmas 1899. Runs family business/factory with Yankeleh. Healthy, does not question his instincts. Optimistic about the new century. Recounts his father's happy passing. Just built a new family mansion. Stern authoritarian to his children who claims his father was sterner and more violent.
Bubbie - Rivkeh: sixtyish - peacemaker. The actual shrewd businessman and decision maker who always talks Izheh down from his rages and subtly makes him always make the right choice.
Aleksy: Seventy-five. Izheh's loyal assistant and before him Avram's.
Tateh - Yankl: fortyish. Has ambitions of building a new synagogue for the city like the Great Synagogue of Budapest, and moving the family business into investment capital. Very handsome and elegant.
Mameh - Rochel: thirtyish. Chronic anxiety before there was such a term. Intelligent, creative, expected to be mother to many children but can't abide the thought that she cannot conceive. Yankl is not bothered because he already secretly has four sons by Libeh. She will eventually have two sons.
Mameh's schvester - Libeh - Rochel's volatile older sister, thirty-fiveish with whom Yankl is having an affair. Already has four sons, and the children are Yankl's, but it's claimed that she had it with her husband, who is secretly gay. Will have three more by Yankl.
Libeh's Mann - Leibel - Fortyish. Secretly gay. Marriage is a kind of sham. Goes to male prostitutes and showing beginning signs of syphilitic madness.
Dinst - Brygida and Zygfrida - The maids with whom Yankl will eventually also have two sons each.
Feter - Aynshel: fiftyish. From Izheh's first marriage. His mother died in childbirth, his father never forgave him. Lives in Bransk, was raised by his mother's sister and her husband. Became follower of the Bransker Rebbe, permanent Yeshiva Bocher, in a sense financially fleeced by the Rebbe and his movement to build a Yeshiva and give the Rebbe a higher lifestyle than Aynshel, now near penury.
Mumeh - Alteh: forty-fiveish. Combative and shrewd. Aware in a way her husband is not that his Rebbe is depleting his money and he's running out of funds. Her son is intelligent but misbehaving, and she wants money for him to go to college.
Adam - Seventeen. Rebellious son of Aynshel and Alteh. Hanging out with goyim in Bransk, eating treyf, drinking and smoking and going with loose women, smart, proto-communist, since he won't be religious, Alteh wants money from Izheh for him to go to university.