Synopsis by librettist Royce Vavrek
Act 1 (Summer)
Middle America, the not-so-distant future: A family of five stays put as most people flee the interior of the country to the coasts. Howard, the father, goes out hunting daily, but his actions are futile. There is no food, aside from government rations that are air-dropped periodically. A beggar, dressed as a dog, shows up at their door searching for scraps. The mother encourages her daughter Lisa to befriend the dog-man, suggesting that she buy into his fantasy of being a dog. Lisa sneaks a couple potato wedges and feeds the beggar, confiding in him, revealing her loneliness and the depression of her mother and father. In the privacy of their bedroom, the parents argue about their choice to stay put, rather than fleeing for the safety of the big cities while their sons, Pat and Elliot, smoke pot in the basement and dream about repopulating the world when things return to normal. Alone, Lisa writes a letter to her best friend Marjorie who escaped with her family, telling her about the new friend she made — the man in a dog suit.
Act 2 (Fall)
The family, now clearly beginning to starve, must rely on grass and weeds for sustenance, and crumbs that are provided as rations. Howard is overcome with frustration and attempts a conversation with the man in the dog suit (Prince, as Lisa has named him), hoping to convince him to “stand up like a man” and act like a human being. When Prince runs off, Howard’s anger erupts in an emotional breakdown. Lisa, locked in the bathroom, eats what’s left of a bottle of Flintstone vitamins. As her stomach begins to churn, she sees her emaciated body and begins to romanticize her figure, believing that she finally looks beautiful like all of the women on the cover of magazines. Later, in the middle of the night, the boys are brought home by an official who has caught them sneaking into abandoned houses. She suggests that the boys enlist in the army, which will keep them out of trouble, as well as provide better rations for the family. Howard refuses. His family is sticking together.
Act 3 (Winter)
The cold sets in. Rations are no longer air-dropped. Mother goes through the motions of her domestic chores, finally resigned to the fact that the end is near. She climbs into bed and waits for death. Howard, left with no other option, grabs his rifle and goes after the only animal in sight, Prince. His sons hungrily follow after him. Inside the house, Lisa discovers her mother and performs a final act of grace before setting out into the great unknown.