The fifth play in a cycle of plays about the author's Irish family, THE STEWARD OF CHRISTENDOM is a freely imagined portrait of the author's great-grandfather, Thomas Dunne, the last Chief Superintendent of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, an organization devoted to the British crown but then disbanded after the Irish war of independence of the 1920s. Considered by some to be a traitor to Ireland, and after some seven years of confinement in the County Home, Dunne is a broken man, both mentally and physically. Alone in a barren room, barely clothed and in little control of his faculties, Dunne, at 75, reenacts scenes from his past, taking refuge in the memory of his three daughters and a son who died in World War I. The parallels between Dunne's family life and the political life of Ireland are all too apparent. Chaos and murder resulted from the revolution, and Dunne could only stand watching as his way of understanding the world dissolved. Similarly, he was an aloof father who couldn't tell his son how much he loved him until it was too late. Near the end of the play, the arrival of Dunne's daughter, Annie, puts the last nail in the play's thematic coffin as her anger and resentment over her father's neglect compete with her pity for this elderly man who now needs her the way a baby needs its mother. Bereft of any solution to his life, Dunne recounts a childhood memory about his own father, in which he seems to be asking us for forgiveness and understanding.
"Magnificent…the cool, elegiac eye of James Joyce's The Dead; the bleak absurdity of Samuel Beckett's lost, primal characters; the cosmic anger of King Lear…" —NY Times. "Sebastian Barry's compassionate imaging of an ancestor he never knew is among the most poignant onstage displays of humanity in recent memory." —Variety.