A simple policeman looks into his heart and turns himself into a wide-eyed folk hero. A hungry trickster makes a hearty meal of a stone and a song. A poignant tale is told of a solitary man washed up by the sea on the faraway coast of Donegal. This is the stuff of which great drama can be wrought.
A one-act play can achieve a kind of greatness. If that one-act play is written by John Millington Synge, Lady Augusta Gregory, or William Butler Yeats, all the better its chances. With their romantic views of the past, and their wondrous sets of laws and techniques, these three lovingly presented plays, full of politics, wild humor, unique displays of language, and deep tragedy, come as close as can be to masterworks.
In addition to their artistic merit, these works are significant to Irish history. In the late 19th century, during the Celtic Twilight (also known as the Irish Literary Revival), Yeats and Lady Gregory turned their attention to Irish theater as a means of increasing national pride and identity through a shared mythology. These short plays, along with many others, were written and performed as part of this initiative. Joined by Synge and Edward Martyn, Yeats and Gregory founded the Irish National Theatre Society, which opened the Abbey Theatre in 1904, solidifying the preservation and presentation of Irish theater going forward.
The plays revived in this tripartite production are the following: