Rainy Night at Lindy’s is a long one-act for seven men and two women set in “a mythological delicatessen in New York City.” There is a counter with a phone “and perhaps an old-fashioned cash register” and tables and chairs surrounded by darkness, creating the feeling of “a busy and somewhat iconic film noir city on a rainy night” in November, 1928. In the darkness, we hear the sound of rain and wind and a tapping telegraph key as Walter Winchell, seated at a table with a round microphone, speaks to “Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea,” announcing that Arnold Rothstein, a notorious gambler reputed to be the mastermind behind the fixing of the 1919 World Series, is in a hospital fighting for his life. The phone rings and is answered by Abe, the cashier. Leo and Clara, the owners of the deli, speak of Rothstein, a regular customer that Clara doesn’t like, comparing him to a spider and telling Abe and Leo that they are to take no more phone messages for him. Leo asks Clara to be quiet before she gets them in trouble, and Moe, “a big, beefy gangster,” asks if the lobster on his plate is male or female, since he only eats female lobsters. Leo assures him the lobster is female. Rothstein enters and asks if there are any messages for him. He asks where Damon Runyon is. The phone rings and Clara tells Abe to answer it. He does, listens, and says it is a wrong number. Rothstein tells Abe that he is expecting an important call but as Leo escorts Rothstein to a table, Clara tells Abe, “No messages.”
Ring Lardner enters, exchanges pleasantries with Abe, and lets Rothstein know that he detests him for fixing the World Series. Rothstein says it was nine years ago and that Ring’s problem is that he wants to believe in things and gets angry when things don’t turn out the way he hopes. Leo tries to get Ring to a table away from Rothstein and Moe. Rothstein says that he hears a scratching sound, like rats, but that it can’t be rats because he hears the sound in other places. Runyon comes in, exchanges insults with Ring, and is told by Rothstein that he (Rothstein) lost three hundred and twenty-two thousand dollars in a crooked poker game. The phone rings, Abe answers, announces a wrong number, and hangs up. Rothstein says that Abe has a tell that lets him know when Abe is lying. Abe says he is not supposed to take any more messages for Rothstein, but when Rothstein asks him what the message was, Abe says that Humpty said for Rothstein to meet him at the Park Central Hotel, Room 349, in half an hour.
Inez, a chorus girl, enters and tells Rothstein that she has been waiting backstage for him for forty-five minutes. He says he has a meeting but that he’ll be right back. She says that he’s never going to divorce his wife and marry her. Rothstein replies that divorces are expensive and he has to pay Humpty three hundred and twenty-two thousand dollars. The phone rings and Abe says he is pretending not to tell Rothstein that there isn’t another call for him. Rothstein takes the phone and then says that he has to be going to his appointment. Runyon advises him to pay the money, but Rothstein says it is a matter of principle. Ring accuses him of giving Jack Dempsey bad olive oil before the Tunney fight and asks if Rothstein got a thrill out of ruining baseball. Inez wants Rothstein to discuss his wife before he leaves for his appointment, and Rothstein says his wife is divorcing him because he doesn’t sleep with her. Rothstein offers Moe his gun, but Moe thinks he should keep it, and Runyon thinks Rothstein should take Moe with him. Rothstein insists that Moe take the gun and go to their office and pick up some money in case “the conversation” doesn’t go well. Rothstein leaves and Inez wants Moe to follow him, but Moe says he has to do what he’s told and that he is “actually a relatively civilized individual.” Inez ways that she will give Moe “anything” if he goes to the hotel and makes sure Rothstein is all right. Ring tells Moe that his lobster plate has balls on it. Leo says the lobster does not have balls and then accuses Abe of buying male lobsters. Clara syas that lobsters don’t have balls, pops one in her mouth, and says that it is tapioca. Inez wants Moe to get to the hotel but he leaves to get money from Eugene. She berates the writers, blames Ring for distracting Moe, and runs out. Ring says he knows everything is a game but that he wants the game to be fair, not fized. Runyon tells him he’s in the wrong country.
The phone rings, Abe answers, wrong number. Lights down on deli area and up on Winchell banging on his telegraph key and announcing that Rothstein, found shot in the stomach at the Park Central Hotel, died of his injuries. He was last seen at Lindy’s Delicatessen, “home of giant corned beef sandwiches, delicious apple pancakes, and the greatest cheesecake in the world.”