How It’s New York:  The show appears as part of the Lincoln Center Festival, for just the one week. 
How It’s Irish:  The play is by Sean O’Casey, one of Ireland’s most celebrated playwrights.  It’s a production of Galway’s Druid Theatre Company, led by Garry Hynes.

(@Robert Day)

Seán O’Casey’s 1928 play about World War I before and after, The Silver Tassie, is not nearly so well known here asJuno and the Paycock  or The Plough and the Stars.  But this production shows that it should be.   It’s a powerful anti-war play that also has music, heart, love and laughs– and anti-war plays are sadly relevant as Hell.   Directed by Garry Hynes, with her Druid Theatre Company (she’s Artistic Director and Co-Founder), the production is vivid, touching, unforgettable– and also brings out the vaudeville training O’Casey’s actors would have had, as well as the Expressionism that O’Casey employs. 

I caught the show during the Ulster Bank Theatre Festival in Dublin in October, and was completely floored.  I am eager to see it again, and will hopefully have Hynes, the first female theatre director to win the Tony (for Beauty Queen of Leenane by Martin McDonagh in 1998), on the podcast as well.

I know there is a lot going on this week, but don’t miss this one.   It begins its run today, July 24, and has just eight performances, closing July 31.

Frank McGuinness famously called this play “the cruelest play in all Irish literature.”  And after it opened in Ireland (in 1935; it had been rejected by Yeats for the Abbey earlier and premiered in London), O’Casey left Ireland, never to return. The play touched the audience, but it was controversial, too.-  see this article in The Irish Times for more on that (connected with the Druid production).

Below is the review I did of the production, from my round-up of the Theatre Festival for Irish Examiner.  Note how I wrote THIS BELONGS ON BROADWAY, AND I HOPE IT GETS HERE!

The show appears as part of Imagine Ireland, Culture Ireland’s year-long season of Irish arts in America in 2011


The Silver Tassie
Druid Theatre’s production of Sean O’Casey’s 1928 play, presented as part of the ReViewed program. Directed by Garry Hynes.
Ireland’s participation in World War I and the devastation wrought among its soldiers, fighting in the British army at the very time Ireland was struggling for independence, is not a subject much represented in theatre and song (John Doyle’s ballad “Farewell to All That,” performed with Andy Irvine last year, takes it on).
O’Casey’s play searingly examines the devastation of that war, and all wars,while lovingly portraying Dubliners exaggerating, courting, drinking and living. He mixes Music Hall styles with then – cutting edge Expressionism. The Gaiety with its gaudiness perfectly set the show.
The title refers to the championship cup won by handsome athlete Harry Heegan (Aaron Monaghan) before the war. The town hero is loved by Jessie Taite (Aoife Duffin) as well as Susie Monican (Clare Dunne), who covers hurt pride with religious zeal.
Sylvester Heegan (Eamon Morrissey) and Simon Norton (John Olohan), in bowler hats, serve as vaudevillians and Greek chorus. Act One takes place in Dublin, before the war; Act Two in the trenches; Act Three in the hospital, where Harry lies paralyezed from a spine injury, and Act Four at a dance. There, the real aftermath of war sets in. Jessie has turned to the man who saved Harry’s life. The bully Teddy Foran (Liam Carney) is blind. And life goes on
There’s comedy as well as expressionism – early on when Mrs. Foran (Derbhile Crotty) burns the steaks, she actually keens over them. In the hospital, a doctor plays the cello while speaking. Yet style never outshadows searing emotion: Harry’s shout from the hospital for Jessie is wrenching. Despondence ends with a prayer.
Hynes wisely, takes each act break – letting us breathe, and see how each act plays with form. The cast were stunning. My only fault with the production was an accordion called a concertina. This belongs on Broadway, and I hope it gets here.

The show runs Sun. – Sat., 8, matiness Sat. 30th and Sun. 31st at 2 pm, at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater, 899 Tenth Avenue between 58th and 59th Streets, NYC.  Get tickets here, or 212-721-6500

Gwen Orel
About the Author

The only New York journalist who writes for both the Forward and Irish Music Magazine.