Set in 1963 in sleepy Lake Charles, Louisiana, Caroline, or Change centers its action on the Gellman family and their African-American maid, Caroline. "Nothing ever happen underground in Louisiana / 'Cause there ain't no underground in Louisiana / There is only underwater."
Caroline informs the audience at the beginning of the show, and Caroline herself is underwater, drifting through her life, nearly paralyzed by her circumstances - a single mother of four working in a service job to a white family. Caroline spends her days in the basement laundry room, with the Washing Machine (a sultry Caribbean blues singer), Dryer (a fiery R&B singer), and radio (a Supremes-like trio), with an afternoon visit from the young Gellman son, Noah, who is just as isolated upstairs in his home as Caroline is downstairs. A fragile, yet beautiful friendship has developed between Noah and Caroline since his mother's death. Noah's new stepmother Rose, unable to give Caroline a raise, a tells Caroline that she may keep the money Noah leaves in his pockets. Caroline balks, and refuses to take money from a child - but her own children desperately need food, clothing and shoes...Does she or doesn't she?