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The Dead, 1904

From 18 critic and 57 member reviews
Members say: Great staging, Enchanting, Great acting, Entertaining, Absorbing

About the show

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

New York Stage 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

No Proscenium

“An immersive take on Joyce’s short story...The story is a meandering, genteel narrative...’The Dead, 1904’ suddenly hits us with emotional weight and sobriety...The final scene is a beautiful melancholy scene that left me wanting to learn more...Whilst the play feels relatively slow...the text feels like it flies by at lightning pace...’The Dead, 1904’ is more than dinner theater, and although it did not live up to my own expectations, I could not help but be charmed by the piece.” Full Review

Epoch Times

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

Irish Central

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

The Hollywood Reporter

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 "A welcome and decidedly grown-up addition to the holiday season's usual roster of theatrical fare. Ciarán O'Reilly once again directs a superb cast...Paul Muldoon and Jean Hanff Korelitz's adaptation captures the deceptively plotless narrative of Joyce's story...'The Dead, 1904' gives the uncanny sense of entering a beautifully wrought literary world that conjures the misty mood of the holiday season as present joys mingle gently with wistful memories of the past." Full Review

AM New York

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

Talkin' Broadway

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

Stage Buddy

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

Metro (US)

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

Village Voice

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

The New York Times

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

Time Out New York

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

Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Profound, Must see

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.

Absorbing, Delightful, Enchanting, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if 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 have rigid rules about how theatre happens. This is a differnt kind of experience...emersive theatre with dinner and drinks. Lovely!

Enchanting, Great acting, Great staging, Refreshing, Must see

See it if Show is about a gathering in Dublin in 1904. The setting in Irish Historical Society sets the tone. Audience gets immersed in the show.

Don't see it if If your into musical theater you may not appreciate it.

Also Audience becomes part of the show. You share a delicious meal and drin... Read more Read less

Delightful, Entertaining, Great acting, Resonant, Thought-provoking

See it if Immersive theatre delights you

Don't see it if If you are not familiar with the source material.

Great staging, Absorbing, Intimate

See it if you love immersive theater where you are part of the show. you love James Joyce, you want to see the American Irish historical society

Don't see it if if you don't like to be part of a show if you don't like a PLAY vs a musical if you want to bring kids - not the type of show for kids

Also I went by myself and completely enjoyed meeting other audience members... Read more Read less

Romantic, Refreshing, Thought-provoking

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.

Also Do dress up! Dinner and drinks are served to the “audience” who are al... Read more Read less

Delightful, Entertaining, Immersive, Great staging, Fun

See it if Great immersive play in a beautiful setting. Acting is great and it's an overall great experience. Delicious food! :-)

Don't see it if The story doesn't really have an arc, but several interesting interactions that keep us entertained throughout.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Ambitious, Great staging, Great acting

See it if you want a truly immersive experience of Joyce's novella, including good alcohol and exquisite (yet simple) food. You feel you're in 1904.

Don't see it if a slow and steady pace without much "action" or you're not prepared to spend the cash to see it. It's special but very expensive.

Absorbing, Enchanting, Great acting, Phenomenol, Great staging

See it if you want to attend a superb dinner party-fine dining and all in 1904 in Dublin and become part of Joyce's novella, The Dead in play format.

Don't see it if you don't want to immerse yourself in a dinner party as part of a play and aren't interested in a period piece written by James Joyce.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Immersive, Delightful

See it if You enjoy immersive shows. The setting really enhances the experience. Great performances and costumes. Production is perfectly executed.

Don't see it if It's a nice story but it's not the most exciting or dramatic. Go for the experience not necessarily the story.

Enchanting, Great staging, Great acting, Slow

See it if you like an immersive theater experience and you want to be part of the show

Don't see it if you can't stand for long periods of time or are uncomfortable in a non-traditional theater setting

Enchanting, Visuals, Great staging

See it if you want an opportunity to see a turn of the century mansion, but the play is a little disappointing.

Don't see it if you want to experience more than the virtue of the setting. Joyce doesn't really make much of an appearance

Ambitious, Disappointing, Great staging, Slow, Absorbing

See it if You want an ambitious, unique theatrical experience.

Don't see it if you are looking for a riveting plot or great dialogue

Also The best parts of the script are the long passages from Joyce's book, ... Read more Read less

Entertaining, Great singing, Intelligent, Must see, Masterful

See it if The show was amazing and inviting. Different then other shows where audience participate with the members. Food was delicious!

Don't see it if You have children under 12

Clever, Delightful, Enchanting, Entertaining

See it if Immersive experience of another time- a holiday tradition.

Don't see it if You have trouble standing for periods of time or you want to be a true observer of the theater experience.

Ambitious, Delightful, Must see, Entertaining, Enchanting

See it if Very intimate experience. Audience is a part of the party that takes place within by the play. Very charming!

Don't see it if If you don’t like small venues, mingling with the actors

During previews
Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Great singing, Masterful

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.

Also I was very impressed with this unique production. The company welcomes... Read more Read less

During previews
Ambitious, Delicious, Great staging, Festive, Must see

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.

During previews
Absorbing, Delightful, Great staging, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if You are part of a great experience. You back in time.

Don't see it if You will be standing alot. You want a theater setting

Also From the moment you arise. You are greeted. Going up the stairs it's l... Read more Read less

During previews
Clever, Exquisite, Great acting, Masterful, Profound

See it if You appreciate a superb cast, exquisite writing. You experience the play as a guest moving thru rooms in a 19th century mansion. Memorable!

Don't see it if You don't like James Joyce or period dramas or standing and walking some of the time during the play. Tickets without dinner option are fine

During previews
Enchanting, Delightful, Great staging, A unique experience, Must see

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.

Also It was a magical experience. I do wish that there was more seating ava... Read more Read less

During previews
Enchanting, Exquisite, Great staging, Great singing, Must see

See it if you want to go to the best party in New York any lit nerd could ever dream of attending.

Don't see it if you hate Joyce or period pieces or interactive theater

Also This was one of my happiest theater nights ever. The staging was beaut... Read more Read less

During previews
Ambitious, Riveting, Exquisite, Delicious, Intelligent

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

During previews
Delightful, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Enchanting

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

During previews
Clever, Great acting, Great singing, Romantic, Great writing

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

Also It would be wise for the theater company to post a large sign by the c... Read more Read less

Cast & Creatives (21)