The first act introduces us to all the major conflicts of the play. Troy is challenging racial discrimination at work. Bono, Troy's best friend, is suspicious that he might be having an affair. Gabriel, Troy's brother, is crazy from a head wound. Most important, Troy doesn't approve of his son's potential football scholarship.
As the next act opens, we learn that Troy has broken the racial barrier at work to become the first black garbage-truck driver. We get more hints that Troy is having an affair. Gabe comes by talking about Armageddon. We also hear Troy and Bono talk a bit about their fathers. The tension crackles when Cory confronts Troy for telling Coach Zellman that he can't play football anymore. The act comes to a close with Troy threatening his resentful son.
Plenty of things come to a head in the final act of the play. Troy ends up committing his brother to a mental hospital. Troy's mistress, Alberta, has his illegitimate child and dies giving childbirth. Rose, Troy's wife, agrees to raise the child, but declares that she's no longer his woman. Tensions erupt between Cory and Troy. The two get into a fight with a baseball bat. In the end, Troy wins and kicks Cory out of the house. The play draws to a close years later on the day of Troy's funeral. In the concluding moments, we watch Cory struggle to come to terms with the shadow of his father.