An infomercial extolling the scientific advances of TRANKULE CORPORATE LABORATORIES runs on multiple screens positioned around the theater. The screens go dark as scientist DR. FISHIE LENGPIULLE appears onstage, praising the glories of his unified world. An unseen chorus joins him as —
The futuristic megacity (“SIVARSI NINE”) is revealed. A company of citizens from all social strata interact in an automated indoor/outdoor mallway. Life here, managed by the orbiting GREAT MAINFRAME, is good. Those who can afford the nanotechnology live extended, healthy, sexually liberated lives.
Nosy holographic newscasters BITTIE and IX appear on all screens. They try to worm info from Dr. Lengpiulle’s group about their mysterious colleague ANTON PROSPER THE FOURTH. Blue-skinned, non-binary event planner BUNCHH interrupts to remind the scientists of Prosper’s exclusive dinner party.
Celebrity socialite FRONDA TRANKULE, 19, emerges from her limo to vogue for the cameras. Running late on his lunch hour, athletic tech DARYEL MIRRIN, 20, nearly collides with her. Fronda exits, annoyed, followed by the enamored youth.
The mood grows grim as Bittie and Ix run scandalous archival footage of a fateful board meeting. On all screens we watch CEO TONO TRANKULE accuse teenaged Anton Prosper’s father of a terrible crime. Prosper Senior has a sudden attack and dies in front of young Anton. Geneticist MADAME KABALA and her adolescent son STEFFAN, also present in the video, watch in horror. She rushes off, but not before the two boys’ eyes meet in sudden, deep connection.
Bittie and Ix reappear to report that the now-adult Anton is working on a top-secret experiment at his ancestral home on PENUMBRA ISLAND.
The scene shifts to Prosper’s gothic mansion on Penumbra. A balcony fronts the darkened RAINBOW SUITE OF CHAMBERS. Two formal stairways curve down to a GRAND BALLROOM. There, Bunchh gives staff members their orders and sends them off. Madame Kabala arrives with her stunning, now-adult son Steffan. Bunchh greets them and hurries them upstairs to change for dinner.
The ballroom becomes an elegant dining hall as a great ATOMIC CLOCK tolls 9PM. The scientists, seen earlier, mingle and chat. Bunchh and Steffan enter in fancy evening dress. Kept youthful by nanotechnology, Bunchh has taken a motherly liking to Steffan, who admits to a longtime crush on Anton. Bunchh encourages him, with one caveat (“KEEP IT LIGHT”): don’t expect or need too much, for Anton is like a wounded panther whose trust must be earned.
Flamboyant Madame Kabala enters with Dr. Lengpiulle and wife. Moments later Anton himself appears. He tells Madame Kabala her expertise is crucial to him. Scheming after Prosper’s fortune, Madame Kabala presents Steffan as her assistant. When the young men’s eyes meet, even after thirteen years, the connection is instant and powerful. Dinner conversation grows heated as Anton disparages the Trankule Corporation’s expensive life extension methods (“CULTURAL SPELL”). He believes a formula for true immortality is achievable but should never be shared with the masses. Madame Kabala pooh-poohs his theory, then exits in a huff when Anton insults her.
Left alone with Steffan, attracted yet wary, Anton affirms his belief that one can have it all and enjoy it without consequences. He goes to take in the night air, leaving Steffan to privately voice his yearning (“BEAUTIFUL EYES”). Madame Kabala returns and expresses her plan to use Steffan’s charms to seduce Anton into a profitable union (“THINK, PUPPY, THINK”). Declaring his love for Anton, Steffan warns her to back off.
At Trankule Corporate Headquarters, Fronda Trankule arrives for a dinner date with her father. Daryel Mirrin, working late, repairs a miniature electronic device which suddenly zips away from him and zooms inside Fronda’s expensive, open purse. Mortified, Daryel apologizes. Despite the social gulf between them, Fronda flirts with him (“CUTE AND KNOWS IT”). A disapproving Tono Trankule interrupts and sends Daryel back to his office. Fronda insists she’ll date whom she pleases.
Later, in Prosper’s grand ballroom, Anton and Steffan listen passively as Madame Kabala rages at being fired “on the verge of a world-shattering breakthrough.” When she demands his support, Steffan explodes with years of pent-up resentment. He will stay to help Anton perfect his secret formula, but she must go. Madame Kabala departs, warning Anton, “He’ll betray you, too!” (“A MOTHER’S GUARANTEE”).
As the two work at their stations, a troubled Anton contemplates the blade of a scalpel. Pocketing it, he leaves the lab. Steffan follows, concerned. He finds Anton outside, brooding. The mansion’s massive gate, engraved with the motto: “What you give is what you ask for,” towers above them. Aware of Steffan’s feelings, Anton cautions him that he cares only for his work (“WHAT YOU GIVE IS WHAT YOU ASK FOR”). Undeterred, Steffan gently kisses him. Thunder growls as a conflicted Anton hurries back into the house.
In the BLACK CHAMBER OF CHOICE, Anton stands before a portrait of Prosper Senior. Nearby looms the great atomic clock. A storm rages outside. Clutching the scalpel, Anton tells his dead father he will “pay the price in blood” (“NO CONSEQUENCES”) to prove that his secret formula for immortality is a success. Just as Steffan enters, Anton stabs himself and falls. Steffan rushes to his side. Long moments pass. The storm dies. Anton awakens and wipes the bloodstains from his stomach. The wound is gone! Death itself has been conquered! His now-proven super-nanos, ATTOMONS, can instantly cure any illness or injury. Anton invites an overjoyed Steffan to share the triumph with him.
A ceremony then takes place in the Black Chamber. Warning of unspeakable horrors if the Attomon formula falls into the wrong hands, Anton injects Steffan, sealing a bond of secrecy between them. Ecstatic, the newly immortal men declare their love for one another (“PERFECT”). To celebrate, Anton plans an elaborate, month-long birthday party for Steffan.
Decorated for a sumptuous fete, the Rainbow Suite of Chambers glows above the grand ballroom. Party guests parade down the aisles and mount the stage. Mingling with them are Fronda and a dazzled Daryel. Bunchh introduces Steffan and Anton as “Fire and Ice.” With them, bejeweled chorus girls and boys dance down the stairs in a Vegas style extravaganza (“THE RICH BEHAVING BADLY”).
The party off to a glittering start, Steffan and Anton bask in their fawning guests’ admiration. Fronda presents Daryel to his hosts. Steffan is immediately jealous of this possible rival. But Daryel gives Anton something entirely new: the simple, human feeling of being liked. Greedy of Anton’s attention,Steffan leads him back upstairs, promising erotic pleasures only he can bestow (REPRISE: “THE RICH BEHAVING BADLY”).
The clock chimes 3 A.M. Daryel bids Fronda a tender goodnight (“FIRE AND ICE”). Fronda kisses the humble tech, warning him to beware of her father. Anton reappears and rejoins the party. To Bunchh and other voyeuristic listeners, he admits that Steffan’s sexual artistry has given him an epiphany. He means, now, to experience every worldly delight he’s missed — no limits, no consequences. Distraught, Steffan tries to lure his straying lover back upstairs. But Anton gives in to steamy, pansexual embraces. Steffan vows revenge (“REPRISE: BEAUTIFUL EYES”).
At dawn Steffan stands with his mother in his former bedroom in the KABALA PENTHOUSE. He falls onto the bed, confessing he’s not only left Anton but also stolen the one thing that will hurt him most. As Steffan falls into a heavy sleep (“LULLABY”), she rifles through his pockets and finds the ATTOMON FORMULA SCHEMATIC CHIP. Triumphantly, she holds it high as Steffan tosses and turns in a nightmare of fire and blood — a foretaste of the unspeakable horrors of the Red Death.
END OF ACT ONE
In Trankule Corporate Headquarters’ courtyard, PAPARAZZI and a CROWD swarm excitedly. Bittie and Ix blast the breaking news: Trankule Corp has perfected nanotechnology capable of endowing eternal life (“PERMA YOUTH/ REPRISE: SIVARSI NINE”). Steffan dashes in, dazed. Everyone grills him about the “Perma-Youth Project.” Ignoring them, he strides into the BOARDROOM to confront his mother and Tono Trankule.
Madame Kabala admits to having seized Anton’s formula as her own. Steffan argues that the glitchy, overworked Great Mainframe can’t manage Trankule-manufactured Attomons; they will go bad, and millions will die. Bent on stopping this, Steffan heads for the door. TWO THUGS enter and beat him mercilessly – especially his face. Madame Kabala departs with Trankule, leaving her son on the floor, bleeding.
Steffan rises and pings Anton. Reluctantly taking the call, Anton says his own Attomons, connected to his clean computer, will heal Steffan completely (“REPRISE: THINK, PUPPY, THINK”). In a fantasy moment, Steffan begs Anton’s forgiveness (REPRISE: “PERFECT”). But even though Anton knows Steffan’s not wholly to blame for the coming disaster, he no longer trusts him. This is “goodbye.”
Trankule returns with Madame Kabala. They and Steffan watch as Bittie and Ix hail Madame Kabala’s supposed invention of Attomons. Broadcasting from his mansion, Anton interrupts the newscast to issue a warning. He identifies himself as the true inventor of Attomons, he alerts the world that Trankule’s criminally botched nanos will unleash a deadly pandemic. All will perish in a biotechnical plague that will engulf the planet (“PROPHECY”). Watching with Daryel in his office, Fronda insists she’ll prove Anton a liar.
Madame Kabala pulls out all the stops to persuade the public that Trankule Attomons are safe (“REBUTTAL”). Her gambit succeeds. People choose to believe her hype over Anton’s grim warning. In the ATTOMON INFUSION LOUNGE, the wealthy and privileged, including Fronda, receive their injections. Bittie and Ix cheer them on as they chant (“GONNA LIVE, LIVE, LIVE!”). The New Immortals carouse until a MAN suddenly vomits. A WOMAN mocks him, only to find that her nose is bleeding.
In Prosper’s ballroom, party guests confront Bunchh demanding to know how they can get in on the Perma-Youth Project. Anton appears and announces the pandemic has begun. He’s closing his gates and shutting off all electronic communication from the world outside. Those who choose to stay will receive injections of pure Attomons, safeguarded by his own, uncorrupted computer. A few decide to leave, but the remaining guests accept Anton’s offer. Horrified by their callousness, Bunchh sinks into a deep depression.
In Trankule Headquarters’ darkened boardroom, onscreen Bittie and Ix report that the Great Mainframe is unable to repair Trankule’s corrupt program. The bad nanos are killing their hosts internally and spreading the Red Death through contageous body fluids. Steffan listens to the horrific news while watching the chaos through the boardroom window.
Escaping the panic, Madame Kabala hurries in, followed by Daryel who is searching for Fronda. All shrink back in terror as a blood-soaked Tono Trankule staggers into the boardroom, armed with a blaster. Crazed with pain, he screams he’ll get the cure from Prosper then kill him. Fronda, in the early stages of plague, appears. Trankule drops his weapon and stumbles toward her. She faints in Daryel’s arms as her father’s body crumbles into a bloody heap on the carpet. Madame Kabala insists they must all find sanctuary on Penumbra Island.
In Prosper’s mansion, a guard reports the four fugitives’ arrival. Though fearful party guests want them banished, Anton admits them. Steffan remains quiet and controlled as Daryel begs Anton to save Fronda (“LISTEN”). Moved by the boy’s heartfelt plea, Anton has her brought to the Black Chamber of Choice.
The clock chimes 2 PM. Madame Kabala, Steffan, Daryel and Anton surround a comatose Fronda. From a secret passage Anton summons a robotic CLEANSING SIPHON which, theoretically, can remove the bad attomons from Fronda’s blood. It is, however, only an untested prototype. Anton hooks the dying girl up to the device. An hour passes. The clock chimes 3 PM. The device finishes its cycle. Relieved, Anton declares that Fronda will live; her system is entirely cleansed of nanos. Overjoyed, Daryel embraces the startled scientist. Steffan strives to hide his jealousy.
Madame Kabala admits she never injected herself with Trankule’s attomons. All her hype was for profit at others’ expense. Disgusted but not surprised, Anton dismisses her. He and Steffan share an uncomfortable silence until, torn by desire and mistrust, they come together in a fierce embrace. Steffan asks for another chance (“POINT/COUNTERPOINT”). Despite grave misgivings, Anton offers his arm.
The scene shifts to FRONDA’S ROOM where Daryel watches over her. Visible through the window, faraway Sivarsi Nine burns. Fronda awakens and panics. Grieving the loss of all she has taken for granted, Fronda confides that, like many of her privileged friends, she had herself “fixed.” By now, the Cryo Center housing her eggs is rubble. She can bring no new life to a dying world. Unable to console her, Daryel leaves.
A lavish masquerade ball begins in the WHITE CHAMBER OF TRUTH. Bunchh presides as costumed guests receive Attomons from Anton (“NIGHT ONE”). Claiming to have been Trankule’s pawn, Madame Kabala vows to spend her immortality rebuilding the world. Daryel, angered by this uncaring “party crap,” confronts Anton. Those who ignored his warning, Anton explains, are beyond his help. But those within his own house are under his protection. Steffan rebukes the boy for refusing when Anton offers him an attomon injection.
The masquerade progresses through the Rainbow Suite (“WALTZ THROUGH THE SEVEN CHAMBERS”). In the GREEN CHAMBER OF FEELINGS, a drunken Bunchh seems close to an emotional breakdown. Trying to convince Anton and Steffan to work together to halt the plague, Daryel is assaulted by a gang of costumed demons. Anton commands his SECURITY DROIDS to stop the attack. He spells out the house rule to Daryel’s temporarily paralyzed tormenters: “Nothing Against Another’s Will! Break it and receive swift justice! There are no exceptions!”
The following night in the GOLD CHAMBER OF POWER, Daryel is deeply concerned about Bunchh’s decline. He praises the gorgeous costumes. Bunchh explains their artistry is merely a substitute for the child they’ve never been able to bear. Hearing this, Daryel is sad for both Bunchh and Fronda. Across the room, Madame Kabala pressures Steffan to get back into Anton’s favor. Her cruel bullying leaves him shattered.
Comforted by Bunchh, who urges him to reconcile with Anton (“A LOVE THAT GIVES ALL”), Steffan makes the attempt. But when Anton insists on total freedom in their relationship, Steffan slaps him hard. Everyone hastily exits. Bunchh is left alone in the chamber with Anton, who believes Bunchh will accept Attomons and be with him always. Because Steffan cannot control his reckless, possessive emotions, Anton says, it’s over. Bunchh’s last hope of the two scientists working together to save the world is crushed.
A short while later, Daryel pounds on Fronda’s door. Tousled, unkempt, Fronda wakens and listens. Still stunned, Daryel tells her Bunchh is dead – a suicide. Fronda lets him in. Sharing a dream of escape from this hideous nightmare (REPRISE: “FIRE AND ICE”) they weep together.
On night six, in the ORANGE CHAMBER OF PASSION, guests indulge themselves obscenely. Daryel and Fronda try one last time to urge a grieving Anton to work with Steffan. All of Anton’s pent-up rage, betrayal and loss pour forth (“EVERYONE LEAVES”) until, at last, he breaks down in tears. Like a younger brother, Daryel holds him. Unhinged by his own grief, Steffan enters and completely misunderstands the embrace. Egged on by Madame Kabala, he snatches up the injector and pumps Daryel full of Attomons, telling Anton, “Now you’ll see he’s nothing special — like all the rest!” Madame Kabala accuses Daryel of playing the innocent to win Anton’s heart – and his fortune. Outraged, the boy dashes off with Fronda. Anton, stricken, knows only that Steffan has broken the House Rule.
On the last night of the masquerade ball, entwined with Anton in their bedroom, a sincerely apologetic Steffan feels redeemed, envisioning a promising future. He is therefore blindsided when Anton uses his HOLOGRAPHIC LAPTOP to deactivate Steffan’s attomons. This is their last time together, Anton explains. Honor demands that Steffan, for breaking the House Rule, must lose his immortality and they must both lose each other. (REPRISE: “POINT/COUNTERPOINT”). With a final kiss, Anton departs, costumed as the Red Death. Left alone in the dark, a new, quiet dignity overcomes Steffan. Though all may be lost, he vows to do as Bunchh asked and love unselfishly, seeking nothing in return.
The great clock tolls 12 A.M. In her blood-soaked Black Chamber costume, Madame Kabala staggers into the bedroom, dying of plague. Blindly she gropes for her son, her body melting into an oozing pile of gore. In horror and pity, Steffan backs away. If her Attomons have gone bad, he thinks, what of Anton’s?
We, the audience, are now Anton’s guests as he announces all within his house are safe from the Red Death. We are to become members of his “Immortal Elite,” destined to rule the post-plague world. Refusing to join in, Fronda and Daryel demand removal of Daryel’s Attomons. Anton is about to comply when a FEMALE GUEST, shrieking and covered with blood, stumbles down an aisle, followed by other zombie-like plague victims. Security Droids appear, firing at the bleeding guests who fall back, paralyzed.
Shocked, Anton realizes his fatal error. All the mansion’s clocks, including his private computer’s, are linked to his father’s atomic clock – which is kept accurate by a signal from the Great Mainframe. Because Anton neglected to block that lone connection the Mainframe has hacked into and contaminated his personal computer. Now everyone’s Attomon program, including Anton’s and Daryel’s, is fatally disrupted. Sacrificing himself, Anton calibrates the Cleansing Siphon and hooks Daryel up to it. Because Steffan, Daryel and Fronda are mortal, he tells the unconscious boy (REPRISE: “A LOVE THAT GIVES ALL”) all three may have a chance to live.
Unnoticed, Steffan enters the Black Chamber. Anton cries out in agony and starts to crumple. Steffan catches him in his arms, promising Anton he will never be alone again. Anton points Fronda to a shelf. There she finds and pockets a brightly glowing COMPUTER CHIP. The siphon disengages from the now-cured Daryel. Fronda helps him to his feet. Seeing Steffan holding Anton, the boy realizes the fateful choice that’s been made in the Black Chamber. Daryel and Fronda, too, must choose: stay or go? She hands Daryel the computer chip – the schematic for the siphon. With fragile hope in their eyes, Daryel and Fronda quickly flee through the secret passageway.
The screams of the dying grow fainter… fainter… then fade altogether. Resolute, fearless, Steffan continues to hold Anton upright (REPRISE: “PERFECT”).