The Poker Session

Hugh Leonard’s play The Poker Session treats the themes of betrayal and blame.  The playwright discussed some of the play’s complexities in his production note to the acting edition.  “The Poker Session is not only a play of detection: it contains also the elements of a comedy, a thriller, a tragedy, an allegory and a black farce. It is for the intending producer to decide upon his own interpretation – to find his own ‘through line’, as it were. pokersessionOn the surface, the play seems to be completely naturalistic: the story of a young man who is spending his first evening at home after a year in a mental institution. Its basic appeal to an audience stems from the several questions it poses: such questions as ‘Is Billy now sane?’ ‘Why has Des, the missing guest, failed to show up?’ and, most important of all, ‘Who drove Billy into the asylum?’

“But the play’s apparent simplicity may prove deceptive. The Poker Session may be understood (and misunderstood) on a number of more ‘subterranean’ levels. To give one example: although we see poker being played hardly at all in the course of the action, the play has none the less been written so that it resembles a rather hectic game of what Teddy calls ‘stand-up poker’. Each character behaves towards the others in the same way as he or she would behave during an actual poker game.”

The Poker Session was first presented by Gemini Productions during the 1963 Dublin Theatre Festival and subsequently staged in London (1964) and New York (1967 and 1984). Marius Goring played Teddy in the first production. Colm Meaney appeared in the NY 1984 production. Professional and amateur productions continue. The cast is: 3M 3F.

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