BROADWAY MAGAZINE- To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and the luck of the Irish, we reached out to Spinner Quinn (pictured left) to name the greatest Irish plays ever written and toast the artists who made them happen. She knows them all.
While everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, these playwright’s have a more direct connection to the Emerald Isle on the other 364 days of the year. Only one play per playwright included please, Mr. Shaw. Top of The Broadway to you all, and thank you Spinner Quinn!
Playboy Of The Western World
by J. M. Synge: No one beats Christy Mahon (or his dad, for that matter). This classic Irish comedy has just the right touch of wild violence and genuine pathos that make it a world classic.
Juno And The Paycock by Sean O’Casey: Strong female characters and a powerful portrait of the fragility, failings, and true reliance of the human spirit. O’Casey deserves a greater appreciation and if you only read one Irish play today, make it this one.
The Importance Of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde: Trinty College, Dublin alum Oscar Wilde changed the world of theatre forever, and will forever hold a place at the table of great playwrights from any country. To honor him, pick up a handbag and leave it at the train station.
Waiting For Godot by Samuel Beckett: They don’t get any better or as important as this one. Sure Beckett wrote it in French and the show was first produced in Paris, but what could be more Irish than that. Nothing to be done. The production wowed Broadway with critical claim last season, and remains a staple of world theatre.
The Quare Fellow by Brendan Behan: Of course The Hostage is a great play too. Behan knew Irish prisons, and this potent play again strikes that magical note which rings both comic and tragic, as the story of a man about to be hung unfolds on the stage.
The Beauty Queen Of Leenane by Martin McDonagh: Sure A Behanding in Spokane is all the rage on Broadway now, but our pick to represent Mr. McDonagh would have to be Beauty Queen. Tough, funny, raw, tragic, and everything in-between. It remains our favorite play from Mr. McDonagh.
The Seafarer by Conor McPherson: Nominated for a 2008 Tony Award, this is our entry to represent McPherson, who continues to bring his own brand of Irish magic to Broadway. The Seafarer brought the devil to the stage on Christmas Eve…to play cards—and drink.
Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw: While Shaw at heart feels so very English, there is no denying his Irish heritage. Actually, he’s from a planet all his own. Picking one play from Shaw to represent him is a bit lame…but we’ll do it anyway. Pygmalion is simply a great play, and recently enjoyed a Broadway revival replete with homo-erotic overtones and a very funny Claire Danes.
Dancing At Lughnasa by Brian Friel: Of course, Translations enjoyed a recent run on Broadway, but we’re opting for Dancing At Lughnasa as our favorite from Friel or our “Frievorite” as they say somewhere in the world. A memory play with both joy and pain—and a large Irish heart. Could a Broadway revival of this gem be far behind?
She Stoops To Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith: About as funny a play as you can get. Great lines, funny situations, and insightful characters. Goldsmith’s gem is an emerald classic, and to think he hails from Ireland too.
Don’t agree with us. We’ll drink to you all the same, but do tell us what we missed. For more great Irish plays, we refer you to a list from Vincent Dowling, who even finds a way to get Hamlet into the mix as one of the greatest Irish plays ever written. Check it out here.
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