New York | 2h 10m | Already closed

Two By Friel

From 7 critic and 17 member reviews
Members say: Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Exquisite, Entertaining

About the show

Irish Rep's new production juxtaposes two short plays by Irish master Brian Friel: "Lovers: Winners" (1967) and "The Yalta Game" (2001), both of which center on a couple in the blossoming stage of romance.


"Lovers: Winners" follows the story of Mag and Joe, two teenage lovers who meet at the top of a hill to study for their final examinations, make plans for their upcoming wedding, and prepare for the child they are expecting. Meanwhile, two narrators relate the darker events surrounding that day. 

In "The Yalta Game," adapted from Chekhov’s short story “The Lady with the Lapdog,” Dmitry and Anna fall in love while on vacation from their spouses. In their courting, Dmitry teaches Anna about the Yalta game—a game in which visitors invent stories about the people they see in the square. But is their love—is any love—real or imagined? Forever or ephemeral?


"Theatergoers have a fresh opportunity to enjoy Brian Friel's brilliant talent in a double-bill entitled 'Two by Friel'...Both these one-acters reveal Friel's bent for experimenting with conventional dramatic forms...The acting ensemble is top-notch, as is the creative team...'Lovers: Winners' and 'The Yalta Game' neatly bracket Friel's career from its early to late flowering and show his posture as a compassionate writer about romantic love." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"In 'Winners,' Gillen and Kelly give strong, vital performances, even if they're not…always convincing as 17-year-olds. Redmond and Leona maintain their professional air but there's something about Leona, in addition to her angelic beauty, that makes your heart throb. In 'The Yalta Game' you get a thorough dose of her magic… Sitting inches away from her allows you to see the subtlety of her emotional truth, the honesty of her tears, the sincerity in her smiles, the affection in her eyes." Full Review

New York Stage Review

"This subject is explored with all the lyrical vigor, wit, and melancholy it deserves...Director Conor Bagley has chosen two plays representing different phases of Friel’s career...Contrasts between innocence and experience exist between the plays and within each one, and are highlighted, under Bagley’s careful and affectionate direction, by the lovely performances here, by turns playful and poignant...Bagley ties the two works together in the end with a dramatic flourish that’s affecting." Full Review

Time Out New York

“Full of literary detail and narrative efficiency, ‘Lovers: Winners’ is an example of perfect one-act construction...Director Conor Bagley seems to have chosen his pieces for their poignant quality: In both playlets, romantic love is seen through tears...Neither production is a tornado of emotion, and the parameters of the evening are modest. But if you have a taste for the bittersweet, there is serious and quiet pleasure to be had in that tiny room: Some tempests are best seen in teapots.” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

“’Lovers: Winners’: Unmitigated cynicism always carries a subversive thrill, but Friel is so enamored with his own scathing sensibility that he can’t tell when it has run its course...’The Yalta Game’, a far more complex and disturbing depiction of the uncertainties, delusions, and outright lies that inform so much of what we call love...The actors strengthen the material...Bagley tries to visually tie the two plays together at the end, but it’s a clunky and unnecessary effort.” Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“Bagley and his cast make the most of Friel's elegant, rather eerie conception...’Lovers: Winners’ packs plenty of life and loss into its short running time, and the unanswered questions about its characters' fates are likely to linger in your mind...’The Yalta Game’: Friel has failed to wrest much drama from Chekhov's scenario, which follows a predictable path...'Two by Friel’ only offers half an evening, although if you've never seen ‘Winners’, it may be worth a visit.” Full Review


"The attempt to draw comparisons between two disparate one-act plays by Brian Friel proves forced and effortful. In a program note for 'Two by Friel,' now playing at the Irish Repertory Theatre, director Conor Bagley writes, 'Although written over three decades apart, 'Lovers: Winners' and 'The Yalta Game' speak to each other in sacred whisperings.' In the event of seeing them performed back-to-back, those 'whisperings' prove so faint, they can barely be heard." Full Review

Enchanting, Exquisite, Great acting, Delightful

See it if You love great writing and romance

Don't see it if You are not willing to let go

Exquisite, Great acting, Great writing, Resonant

See it if A beautifully written and acted romance. It is heartwarming to sit close and listen to inspiring words.

Don't see it if You are looking for A robust fast moving loud extravaganza

Romantic, Thought-provoking, Funny, Giddy, Sad

See it if Is romantic love a wishful respite from grim reality, or is love the reality that ultimately matters? Is it worth the sacrifice?

Don't see it if You don't want to feel happy and sad at the same time. You want a concrete resolution rather than one that makes you ponder.

Absorbing, Great acting, Romantic, Refreshing, Entertaining

See it if You appreciate lyrical writing about the tumult of burgeoning love (young and older ) told in a duo of intimate pieces

Don't see it if You want space and extravagant production

Great writing, Great acting, Absorbing, Intelligent, Resonant

See it if Charming stories of complexities of relationships.

Don't see it if Love stories don't interest you.

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Great writing, Both funny and melancholy

See it if Two bittersweet one act plays portraying the complexities of relationships; great acting; you appreciate small, intimate settings.

Don't see it if you need action, elaborate scenery & costumes - this is bare bones; you prefer love stories with happy endings. Poor sight lines.

Poetic, mysterious, very irish

See it if you love Friel and fine acting in a very intimate space, are open to unfinished stories and love found and lost plot lines.

Don't see it if happy endings and questions answered about "what happened" are essential; if Irish accents are a challenge you will have to listen carefully

Intimate, Lagging, Romantic, Intelligent, Absorbing

See it if you enjoy Irish theater and thoughtful, interwoven narratives.

Don't see it if you prefer dynamic, edge-of-your-seat quicker paced theater or like more ensemble-oriented shows.

Intelligent, Refreshing, Thought-provoking

See it if You like Friel. An intelligent thoughtful playwright. Two plays about love, relationships, hopes and reality. Very original. Makes one think

Don't see it if Irish accents throw you off. Young girl hard to understand. Not for everyone. Very talky. Small stage little theater not much of a set.

Also Second play is adaptation of Chekhov story.

Great acting, Great writing, Entertaining, Absorbing

See it if you're a fan of Friel. Acting students take note: some wonderful monologues, especially in Lovers:Winners.

Don't see it if you need action. Both plays are quite static. Sightlines in the first play make it difficult to see the actors. Try for front row.

Also Friel certainly had a way with words. These two plays, written years a... Read more Read less

Welcome opportunity to see lesser-known friel, awkward staging

See it if you love Friel, and welcome a chance to see plays of his that aren't often (or ever before) done in New York.

Don't see it if you think "Lady with a Lapdog" was perfect as a short story, and (despite good acting) doesn't work as well when adapted to the stage.

Also For much of the first one-act play, the actors sit on the stage floor.... Read more Read less

Clever, Enchanting, Disappointing

See it if If you want something that Is based on relationships . It gives you both the happy and sad.

Don't see it if If you want a bigger production or something more lavish.

Disappointing, Excruciating, Intelligent, Slow, Exquisite

See it if you don't mind leaving after the first act. Lovers/Winners was good, I thought the Yalta game went on for way too long and was boring

Don't see it if you're looking for something uplifting

Absorbing, Delightful, Entertaining, Exquisite, Funny

See it if You love the great playwright Brian Friel and the intimacy of a small house at an excellent Off Broadway theater. Great acting, directing.

Don't see it if You want a huge Broadway size house and marquee actors. These actors are original and talented but not for people coming to see Kinky Boots

Absorbing, Clever, Romantic, Intense, Resonant

See it if You don't need a happy ending and are looking at theatre that pushes emotional limits.

Don't see it if You need a happy ending or spectacle.

Absorbing, Great acting, Entertaining, Thought-provoking

See it if You love Brian Friel and want a very entertaining show with excellent direction and acting.

Don't see it if If you don't like very small theatres.

Absorbing, Clever, Riveting

See it if you love Friel and especially enjoy great acting in an intimate setting

Don't see it if one-acts are not your thing

Cast & Creatives (11)