That review prompted the legendary civil rights attorney Paul O'Dwyer, then the president of the New York City Council, to write to the Times to charge the critic with “defending the empire rather than reviewing the play.”
So it's timely for the Rep to allow us an opportunity to reassess the play now, in the hindsight of the war that erupted and the peace that finally followed it. It's to be hoped that The New York Times can find a theater critic with a grasp of recent Irish history, too.
On October 10, the Rep continues its new season with another major new production, the New York premiere of A Celebration of Harold Pinter, starring floppy haired Julian Sands (The Killing Fields, A Room with a View, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) in his New York stage debut, directed by Academy Award nominee John Malkovich.
Pinter, a British playwright, had a long and formative relationship with Ireland, having traveled the length of the country as a fledgling actor paying his dues years before he became the most celebrated British playwright of the 20 century. The show is Sands' personal reflection on working with the Nobel laureate who passed away in 2008.
The anniversary season continues on November 29 through December 30 with The Songs I Love So Well, a warm bath of an evening featuring the beloved Irish songbook and starring the acclaimed Irish musician Phil Coulter. It's a concert that's a guaranteed sell out so you'd be advised to book your tickets soon.
And what are the lessons of 25 seasons of staging Irish plays?
“It's an old discovery, the plays that work the best are the ones that have a good story to tell,” O'Reilly reveals. “Living in America can cut you off from the country you grew up in.
“I feel like I've been away a long time now. When I go back home I get into the car and I'm in Cavan in half an hour when it used to take me two hours. On the way you're on a motorway now and you don't see the farms anymore. It's different and I feel less of a connection now in the plays. I harken back to the things I knew growing up instead.”
The conversation between those two worlds, between Ireland the way it was and the way it is now, and the conversation between Ireland and Irish America, have made the Rep what it is – the most vital and consistently engaging theater of its size in the city. Don't miss its new season.
For more information visit www.irishrep.org. The Rep is located at 132 West 22nd Street.