The play is a kind of poetic and comic fable set in the twilight zone of the not-quite-true. At the Cafe Chez Francis, a group of promoters plot to tear up Paris in order to unearth the oil which a prospector believes he has located in the neighborhood. These grandiose plans come to the attention of The Madwoman of Chaillot who is ostensibly not normal in her mind but who is soon shown to be the very essence of practical worldly goodness and common sense. She sees through the crookedness of the prospector and insists that the world is being turned into an unhappy place by the thieves and those who are greedy for worldly goods and power.