The Yeats Game, a new comedy by John J. Ronan, will have its Boston premiere at the Boston Playwrights' Theatre. Gloucester's West End Theater, headed up by the celebrated Boston actor and director M. Lynda Robinson, is sponsoring the production. The Yeats Game had a two-week, SRO run at the West End Theater in 2007 and won praise from both reviewers and public.
The Yeats Game is a four-character, two-act comedy/farce. In tone, it's in the Coward/Simon tradition, with currents of dark mystery. The play does not let theme interfere with the comedic movement, however, despite dealing with (late) middle age - the pre-geezer years.
Mystery begins at a funeral, a framing device for the whole piece. Two couples standing over a casket are unable to identify the lost friend, though at different times it seems to be each one of them. They do remember when he/she/it died - the previous weekend. The core of the action is a flashback to that wild weekend, the immediate motivation a solving of the play's great puzzle.
At a cabin retreat, the couples drink and begin to play The Yeats Game, a form of sex-therapy designed to take the mind off complacent middle age - and death. The game itself is inspired by the poet's famous line: "I am still of opinion that only two topics can be of the least interest to a serious and studious mood - sex and the dead." The couples wind up in bed - where else? But the 'naked' truth of what they discover is far from simple - affairs starting, affairs ending, confessions and conundrums, a rollick of lust and laughter.
As The Yeats Game closes, again at the funeral, we learn that morality and maturity can be weak motivators, that complacency has its virtues - and that the corpse is perhaps not so dead. Who is it? Well, you'll have to see the play.
Ronan, a nationally known poet and writer and National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, drew on his background as an Irish-American for the play. "It's a funny, sincere play. These couples are naughty and nice at the same time," he adds. "There's a little Irish-American gloom mixed in, too. But it's humorous gloom. I think it would be a great way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day."