Da is a semi-autobiographical, two-act play by Hugh Leonard that explores the relationship of Charlie, a successful writer, with his adoptive father, whom he calls Da (as in ‘‘Dad’’). Da was first performed at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin for the Dublin Theatre Festival in 1973. In 1978, Leonard received several awards for Da, including the Antoinette Perry (‘‘Tony’’) Award for best play, the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for best play, the Drama Desk Award for outstanding new play, and the Outer Critics Circle Award for outstanding play.
Da begins in May 1968, just after Da's funeral. As Charlie sits in the kitchen of his childhood home, sorting through his father's things, he is visited by the ghost of Da. Through a series of memory scenes, Charlie recalls key incidents in his relationship with his adoptive father throughout his life. Although as a child Charlie is fond of Da, by the time he is a teenager, he feels ashamed of his father's ignorance and crude language. Charlie also feels disdainful of Da's subservience toward his employers and Da's hostile temper toward his wife. As an adult, Charlie is a successful writer and lives in London with his wife and children. When he is done sorting through Da's things, Charlie leaves the house, locking the door behind him, with Da's ghost inside. But, as soon as Charlie turns around, the ghost has emerged from the house and insists on following him wherever he goes.
Da explores themes of death, family, memory, and identity. As the play closes, Charlie must accept that the memory of his father cannot be locked away m the past but, for better or worse, will follow him throughout his life
Act I begins in May, 1968, in Charlie's childhood home after the funeral of his adoptive father, whom he calls Da. As he is sorting through his father's things, throwing many of them in the fire, his childhood friend Oliver, having missed the funeral, comes by to offer condolences. After Oliver leaves, the figure of Da enters as a ghost. Charlie's mother, now dead, also enters in a memory scene. In this memory, Charlie, who is seventeen and still unemployed, having just finished school six months earlier, is with his parents, who are awaiting a man called Drumm. They are hoping Drumm will offer Charlie a job. When Drumm arrives, Charlie is embarrassed by his father's displays of ignorance and his crude language and by his mother's explanation of his adoption. In embarrassment, Charlie leaves the house, but Drumm follows him outside, and as the two walk, he agrees to offer Charlie a job as a clerk
Back in the kitchen, Charlie, in his present self, continues to converse with the memory of his father. He complains that Da even interfered with his attempt to lose his virginity. In a memory, Charlie, now nineteen and in college, is attempting to seduce Mary Tate, a young woman with a reputation of having sex with any young man who asks her. As Charlie makes a pass at Mary, his father walks up and begins talking with her. Because his father knows Mary's family, Charlie learns from the conversation that her father has abandoned her mother and her brothers and sisters. Upon hearing of these hardships, Charlie can no longer go through with his efforts to seduce Mary.
In a memory from an earlier time, Charlie recalls adoring his father, seeing him as an ‘‘Einstein.’’ Charlie, aged seven, takes a walk with his Da, now in his thirties and ‘‘in his prime.’’ As they walk, Charlie asks his father where his birth mother is, claiming that his aunt informed him that she is not where they have told him she is. Da responds with an explanation that is as false as the original explanation. As they walk toward home, Charlie tells Da that he loves him, to which Da responds, ‘‘Certainly you do. Why wouldn't you?’’
In a memory from Charlie's teen years, he sits in the kitchen writing a thank you letter to Nelson and Jeanette Jacobs, family acquaintances who have inquired about his job...
(The entire section is 1,225 words.)