Irish Rep revives its immersive adaptation of James Joyce’s novella about a holiday gathering in 1904 Dublin, staged in a historic Victorian mansion. More…
At the party are students, friends, a celebrated tenor, a lost alcoholic, and a couple: Gabriel and Gretta Conroy. Over the course of the evening, there are conversations, music, dancing, and dining. There are speeches and disagreements–polite and impolite–and when it is all over, Gabriel learns something about his wife that changes his sense of who she is and who they are to each other, and what it actually means to be alive–or dead. An audience of 40 guests attends the party alongside the actors, moving from room to room, and dining on a meal inspired by the menu in the novella.
“It’s holiday-party setting gives ‘The Dead’ the cozy familiarity of turkey and mashed potatoes served with a heaping spoonful of agita...This is its third incarnation...Gilbert reprises her role as Gretta...Joyce's story was adapted for the big screen by John Huston in a 1987 film version and for the Broadway stage in a 2000 musical, but neither could ever make us a part of the story the way Irish Rep's intimate, immersive production does...The evening passes like a waking dream.” Full Review
"Ciarán O’Reilly, the director, stages these happenings with an easy flow...The actors mostly provide natural performances...The exquisite detail and insightful characterizations embodied by Leon Dobkowski’s period costumes enhance the company’s fine portrayals...Although 'The Dead, 1904' cannot completely plumb and express the emotional richness of Joyce’s story, its subtle humor and much of its poignant mood shines through." Full Review
for a previous production “This site-specific and completely immersive production offers a poignant look at the emptiness of seemingly contented people...O’Reilly handles the material perfectly, letting events and moments slowly build until each of the characters becomes achingly real and alive. There is not a hint of the drabness that sometimes accompanies a period piece...A walk down a shadowed memory lane wrapped in the brightness of a holiday celebration, “The Dead, 1904” makes for a truly unforgettable experience." Full Review
for a previous production “An immersive experience of the most genteel variety...Lovingly and smoothly staged...The adaptation is an intimate experience that gently and richly engages all the senses...Music also plays a central role in the production, eliciting not only good cheer, but also buried emotions to rise from their graves. As with the novella, the evening ends on a note of bittersweet melancholy that’s haunting...The current cast is just wonderful.” Full Review
for a previous production "It can only be hoped that this extraordinary experience becomes an annual production...There is a palpable sense of occasion, and that welcoming holiday atmosphere feels entirely right...We watch a proud but overlooked city and the people who dwell in it recall older, usually better times. But all night there is an under music of lament that rises and rises as the night progresses and that this production (directed by Ciaran O'Reilly) handles masterfully." Full Review
for a previous production "A skillfully staged, immersive adaptation...The show is transporting, thanks in large part to its elegant setting...It’s a subtle but haunting tale, and the immersive adaptation draws us into it skillfully. We have to jostle for optimum position in the small rooms and risk losing some intimate moments. But the dinner scene, in which we dine with the characters, is beautifully handled, and when we sit in the Conroys’ bedroom during their emotional exchange, the effect is nearly voyeuristic." Full Review
for a previous production "The resulting magic is enough to more than cancel out any dramaturgical mediocrity...The thinness of the plot is unavoidable...I felt, as it's seldom possible to do, as though I really was a part of the play—in no small part because I actually was...It's easy, perhaps necessary, to forgive 'The Dead, 1904' a lot, even if you don't want to...'The Dead, 1904' is in no way a terrific play—it is, nonetheless, theatre at its most absorbing." Full Review
for a previous production "'The Dead' is ideally suited for the immersive theater treatment since it brings to life a boisterous holiday party, full of dancing, drinking, singing, toasting and eating. The production (directed with an eye for detail by Ciaran O’Reilly) manages to combine the fun and spontaneity of immersive theater with tender and nuanced acting from an accomplished cast. The dialogue is lifted directly from the original text...Even with dinner and drinks included, the ticket price is absurdly expensive." Full Review
for a previous production “It's as if you've stepped back in time to a lavish turn-of-the-century Christmas party. That, and the chance to inhabit Joyce's rich world, are the two best aspects of ‘The Dead, 1904’...Though Melissa Gilbert's Gretta feels a bit high-strung, her loud emotion is the perfect counterpart to Collins' understated Gabriel...When we reach that final line which is possibly one of the most perfect endings ever written - there is a quiet sense of wonder not unlike the spell cast by Joyce's final line." Full Review
for a previous production "The lively dinner party that has taken over the American Irish Historical Society is done no favors by its title: 'The Dead 1904'...The lack of plot is, in a rare treat, not detrimental to the experience...Instead of allowing existential dread to merely haunt its celebration, 'The Dead 1904' confronts it in a night that is a feast for the mind and belly, as the best gatherings are. It is a reminder to live well — otherwise, we’re just dying slowly." Full Review
for a previous production "It's a delicate, graceful plot that cries out for no less delicate and graceful a staging, and for the most part, Muldoon and Korelitz's elegant script succeeds. But the immersive elements are often distracting...The play's strongest scene, tellingly, is its most traditional...Here, without its experimental trappings, 'The Dead, 1904' is nothing more, and nothing less, than a wrenching look into what goes unsaid in a marriage. That's why the story shines, and where the play shines, too." Full Review
for a previous production "Through a series of choreographed moments (some more subtle than others), director Ciarán O'Reilly gives us the feeling of being invited to a family dinner during which a few skeletons escape the closet...While it doesn't feel as effortless as other immersive attractions, it gets the job done...'The Dead, 1904' is full of finely crafted moments, as well as many more that have a blunter quality. It's not a perfect immersive production, but one has to admire Irish Rep for taking the risk." Full Review
for a previous production "The performers inhabit their roles with vivacity, seemingly unaware of the audience members whose eyes are trained on them...But when the adapters translate Gabriel’s turbulent sensations into a long monologue, the spell of closely observed naturalism is inevitably broken...Ultimately 'The Dead, 1904' is more memorable as a festive party than as a heart-searing tale of the elusiveness of love, and the sadness — but also the beauty — inherent in the transitory nature of life." Full Review
for a previous production "Unusual and slightly subdued evening. Still, this may be a party, but it ain’t no disco!...As is true of a lot of dinner parties, then and now, there’s a splash of drama, some barely-contained tensions, and a fair amount of banality...Still and all, it seems like we’ll leave pleasantly full and glad that nothing eventful actually happened...If 'The Dead, 1904' accomplishes its goals, we leave the house as different people than when we entered, which may be more than some people bargained for." Full Review
for a previous production "It’s all kind of fun, though perhaps not the best way, until the very end, of experiencing Joyce’s story. The production is faithful to him, but what’s missing is the author’s voice. Without a narrative guide, things are loose and disconnected...At dinner, for example, rather than straining to hear the characters’ low conversation, you end up chatting with the person seated next to you...The actors also sometimes distractingly break character as they interact with the audience." Full Review
for a previous production "Neither the writing nor the ensemble acting does much to fill in the spaces of Joyce’s spare descriptions...It is good fun for a while...But more often, the dialogue seems forced; the audience is not integrated into the action, but merely watches it at uncomfortably close range...'The Dead, 1904' fares best at its conclusion, when it abandons the conceit of our presence at the party...In this openly theatrical and literary scene, the story comes briefly to life." Full Review
See it if If you love interactive theater and James Joyce, one of the best nights I have spent at the theater, I was inside a work of literature. Love
Don't see it if If you don't like adaptations, if you don't like to see the story happen around you and the actors interact with you as with a dinner guest.
See it if you hunger for a theatrical experience that you'll be able to remember and discuss decades from now. Or, if you want to experience Joyce.
Don't see it if You are not a fan of James Joyce, if you don't like standing for a period of time, and if immersive theatre is not for you.
See it if ...you are a fan of James Joyce or if you specifically loved this book. It is enchanting to meet these iconic characters in a party/dinner.
Don't see it if ...you have rigid rules about how theatre happens. This is a differnt kind of experience...emersive theatre with dinner and drinks. Lovely!
See it if you are willing to be totally drawn into 1904 Ireland, sit at a meal (yes, with wine) with strangers & experience these characters up close
Don't see it if you don't like standing for long periods, engaging with the actors and moving from room-to-room;
See it if magical evening, celebrating Christmas at the home of spinster sisters in 1906 Dublin. Audience eats & drinks as dinner guests.
Don't see it if Unable to suspend disbelief to enjoy dinner “theater” in a historic townhouse, Irish Historical Society.
See it if Lovely visit to the past. Act1- Food, music, & conversation in the 1904 Irish countryside. Act2- Reflections on mortality; marriage secrets.
Don't see it if Recommend reading the novella beforehand. Not high drama, more of a slice of life. Dress up and buy the dinner for the full experience.
See it if you have a melancholy soul. The concluding scene is so very Irish. The words go right to your heart (as if I should comment on James Joyce
Don't see it if you aren't willing to stand for a long time, and get uncomfortable in a non-traditional theater setting
See it if you want the wonderful opportunity to see a turn of the century mansion. Unfortunately the play is superficial and disappointing.
Don't see it if you want an evening of theater. This is an experience by virtue of the setting. Joyce does not make much of an appearance
See it if You like immersive, intimate theater and want to have dinner in a 5th Avenue mansion like it was in 1904. Also, if you can afford it!
Don't see it if You want to sit the entire time - the play does involve standing for lengthy periods and moving from room to room.
See it if you love Irish things or unique immersive theater, want to glimpse inside a gorgeous historic building and/or just have an amazing meal.
Don't see it if you don't want to be on your feet for a couple hours.
See it if you enjoy immersive site-specific theater that sweeps you up in the beautifully staged action that is brilliantly adapted from Joyce.
Don't see it if you don't enjoy immersive theater and will be put off by standing for a long time before seats and food are available.
See it if An immersive, delicious, poetic show in a beautiful space is your thing. Or if you're a James Joyce fan
Don't see it if You don't want to stand for half or be part of the show
See it if You want a unique theatrical experience and to be immersed into another time and place and space as well as get to eat and drink
Don't see it if You want the same old same old
See it if You enjoy Joyce's works, fine acting, sweet music in a beautiful setting of 1904 Dublin. You wish to dress up a bit, and "channel the era"!
Don't see it if You are bored by classic Irish theater, & literature. You wish a light comedy, musical in a traditional theater. You cannot stand for awhile
See it if you are interested in Irish traditions & would like a joyful holiday experience that includes a delicious meal & interactive performers
Don't see it if you cannot stand for 20 minutes or longer. There are a few seats but it is like playing musical chairs to get one. NOTE the uptown location
See it if If you enjoy immersive theater and/or James Joyce. It felt like we were attending a party in 19th century Ireland.
Don't see it if If you only like traditional theater. You cannot stand for long periods of time.
See it if You want to be in an Irish mansion and enjoy libations & dinner with a family that has secrets that emerge.Enjoy their life room by room
Don't see it if If you cannot stand for long periods of time. There are chairs but not for all
See it if you like immersive theater. The settings are lovely, the interaction w the actors delightful but unpressured. Song, drink, food - & sadness.
Don't see it if you don't like Joyce, or don't like being near the 'action.' This is a small story, on a small scale, about human connections.
See it if you want to see a period piece in a beautiful old townhouse with a delicious meal and a cast that serves as gracious hosts. It is enjoyable.
Don't see it if you are looking for a good, script that amounts to something. This adaptation of the Joyce novella is slow-moving and very slight.
See it if You want to immerse yourself in the 1904 Ireland of James Joyce in an historic home - dining & moving through the house with the actors
Don't see it if you prefer modern musical comedy.
See it if you want a light-immersive experience, theater before, during and slightly after dinner - a lovely take on some Joyce, slow but quite lovely
Don't see it if you want a very traditional theater experience, or if you want a very immersive experience - it fits somewhere between the two.
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