(The play can be performed with as few as SIX actors - see FAQ.)
Esther Unmasked is a two-act musical, with each scene of the play corresponding to that same chapter of the Book of Esther. It may be played without an intermission.
The magical, mysterious city of Shushan, capital of the Persian empire, in the 5th Century BCE, shortly after the Babylonian exile. Home of pure-blooded Persians and a ghetto of exiled refugees alike.
Narrator – A group facilitator, like your favorite camp counselor. Gently gets the ball rolling.
Hadassah / Esther – Early 20s woman from the ethnic ghetto. Intuitive, empathic, visionary, and brave. Orphaned as a baby. Believes everyone is good at heart.
Mordecai – Early 40s man, her older and more spiritual cousin. He remembers when their whole tribe was evacuated from their homeland and made their way to Persia.
King Ahasveros – 40s, narcissistic, but not evil. Often misses the bigger picture. Loves a good party, but insists on being in control of any situation. Lonely at the top.
Haman – The King’s advisor. A master of the political game. Believes in Machiavellian morals and doing whatever it takes. Secretly compensating for a cosmetic defect.
Vashti – The king’s wife. Fed up with his misogyny. Highly educated but WASP-y.
Zev – Late-20s, a blacksmith from the ghetto. Cynical, rough, secretly in love with Hadassah.
Hegai – A chamberlain of the king. Clever, kind, with his own agenda.
Zeresh – Haman’s wife. A dom. Conniving and power-hungry.
Bigtan & Teresh – Two of the King’s mutinous, inept servants. Not too bright.
Ladies in Waiting – Seventh-generation-born middle-class Persians. Loud and entitled.
Ensemble (Courtiers, Guard, Storyteller, Townspeople, Neighbors)
Sc.1 Left to their imagination, a group of kids whisk themselves on a flying carpet to ancient Persia. The Narrator, dressed as a flight attendant / tour guide, welcomes the audience off their magic rug to the city of Shushan (Song: Welcome to Shushan). In the King’s Palace, he has a party with his courtiers while his wife, queen Vashti, has a party with hers. The King writes a note for Hegai to deliver to Vashti. Vashti reads it out loud – she is summoned to dance for the king and his friends while wearing only her crown. She refuses, and is banished (Song: Not Gonna Dance).
Sc. 2 We meet a group of Judean refugees, the second-class citizens of Shushan: cynical Zev, pragmatic Mordecai, and hopeful Hadassah. Hadassah dreams of a better world (Song: What That Could Be). Word gets out that the position for Queen is now open, and Hadassah dresses up as a native Persian with the name “Esther.” She waits in the palace with other would-be queens, a group of greedy, entitled hopefuls (Song: Royal Bee). Esther’s kindness touches Hegai the chamberlain, and he suggests she appeal to the King’s love of parties (Song: Banquets and Balls). When the King meets Esther, he falls in love with her (Song: Queen of Hearts). Outside the palace gate, Mordecai checks up on Esther. As he’s about to leave, he hears two guards, Bigtan and Teresh, plot to kill the King, and Mordecai summons an officer to arrest them (Song: We’re Gonna Kill the King). The officer thanks him, and Mordecai is convinced that tides are turning in their favor.
Sc. 3 Haman, the king’s viceroy, receives news that due to Vashti’s banishment, the women of Shushan have become more subservient. It is against the law to see the king without permission, but the king summons him to reward him (Song: It Doesn’t Pay). Haman is adorned with an idol on a gold chain. He announces that all bow to him, and Mordecai refuses to bow down. Haman convinces the king to enact an edict to kill them all.
Sc. 4 Mordecai shows up outside the gate to tell Esther of this edict. She agrees to go to the king unsummoned, though it risks her life to do so. (Song: Masquerade).
Sc. 5 Esther goes to the King unsummoned. He is delighted to see her, and she requests a private banquet with him and Haman. When Haman hears this, he is delighted, and goes off to tell his wife, Zeresh. On the way, Mordecai refuses to bow to him, and it infuriates Haman. Zeresh suggests that Haman hang Mordechai on a gallows in the city square. (Song: You Inconsolable Fool).
Sc. 6 Haman explains to Zeresh why he hates Mordecai so: Some time ago, the king realized Mordecai saves his life, and Haman was humiliated parading Mordecai around town to honor him on the king’s horse, Blinky. (Song: Give It Up for Mordecai).
Sc. 7 At the dinner, Esther reveals her true identity to the King and Haman, and that Haman wants to destroy her people. (Song: Husband Husband). Haman is hanged on the gallows.
Sc. 8 The King amends his murderous decree as best he can – with an addendum giving Esther’s people the chance to defend themselves. Back in the ghetto, Zev leads his neighbors into battle for their lives. (Song: The Standing Sun).
Sc. 9 The Narrator tells us that the battle was won. The survivors usher in an age of justice and equality for all people in the land. Order is restored. We bid farewell to Shushan. (Song: Shushan Reprise)