Brian Friel is one of Ireland’s most prolific and successful contemporary dramatists. Dancing at Lughnasa won both London’s Olivier Award and New York’s Tony Award for Best Play. Though successful in New York with Philadelphia Here I Come (1964), Friel is better known in Dublin and London for dramatic triumphs such as Faith Healer (1979), the more political Translations (1980), and Molly Sweeney (1994).
Friel was educated for the priesthood at Maynooth Seminary, Ireland, but, instead of taking Holy Orders, he became a teacher like his father. Following the success of his very elegant short stories, available in two collected editions, The Saucer Full of Larks (1969) and The Gold in the Sea (1966), he gave up teaching and devoted himself to the theater, working in 1963 at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.
Dancing at Lughnasa (pronounced LOO-na-sah) represents Friel’s utilization in his writing of the regional life he knows so well. Young artists are often advised to write about what they know, and Friel demonstrates just how satisfying this course can be for a much wider audience than simply the people of his home, the northern counties of Ireland, the locale in which he situates Dancing at Lughnasa and much of his writing. This geographic area and this family life become metaphors for a wider audience by far. Friel’s concern here is to show the fragility of any community and his keen awareness of the slippery quality of language as a means of communication.
The dominant metaphor in this play...
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