[Originally published in the Star & Wave newspaper on March 13, 2024.]

By Roy Steinberg, Producing Artistic Director 



With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, many of us in Cape May might be thinking about bangers and mash at Delaney’s Irish Pub, washed down with green beer, but the proverbial “gift of the gab” has me thinking about some of the greatest playwrights in the English language who are of Irish descent.


While Irish theater dates back to the Middle Ages, it was William Congreve, who grew up in Ireland and wrote “The Way of the World” in 1700, who really got the world’s attention, even though he had to leave Ireland to do it.  Oliver Goldsmith, born in the Kingdom of Ireland and author of the play “She Stoops to Conquer” written in 1773, and Dublin-born Richard Brinsley Sheridan, who wrote “The Rivals” in 1775, also helped put Ireland on the dramatist map.


This fall Cape May Stage is remounting the play “Stones in his Pockets” by Marie Jones, born in Northern Ireland. The play is about two extras working in a film set on the Emerald Isle, who find themselves in hilarious situations.  It won “Best Comedy” from the Olivier Awards in London, and we are pleased to reprise it at our theater. 


Cape May Stage has also performed the works of many of today’s most important Irish playwrights in recent years.  We presented John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt,” which won both a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for Best Play.  We also produced his prize-winning work, “Outside Mullingar,” set in the Midlands of Ireland. Shanley was a featured speaker at the theater’s National Playwrights Symposium last spring where participants were the first to hear him read his newest play, “Brooklyn Laundry,” which is currently running in New York City with Cecily Strong as the lead. 


One of the most controversial works we ever produced at Cape May Stage was Irish writer Samuel Beckett’s “Happy Days” starring Lynn Cohen.  Beckett won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and our production of this play established us as a serious theater worthy of regional and even national recognition for our works.


I often quote the great wit of famed Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde in my commentary in our programs at performances. I also directed his play, “The Importance of Being Earnest,” in New York several years ago. Coincidentally, the play premiered on Broadway in 1895 when Victorian Cape May was in its hey-day. 


From John Millington Synge to Sean O’Casey in the early 20th century to the more recent works of Conor McPherson, the dark humor and lyric poetry of Irish dramatists continue to inform our culture and grace our stages.  Perhaps, a shot of whiskey is called for in celebration of Irish artistry.

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