Sea Marks

by  Gardner McKay

Full Length Play, Drama  /  1m, 1f

Winner! Los Angeles Drama Critics' Circle Best Play Award

“Utterly Winning” – New York Magazine
“Funny, Touching, Well Crafted” –  The Associated Press
"A masterpiece." - Tribune, Worcester, Mass

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License Estimator

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  • Cast Size

    Cast Size

    1m, 1f
  • Duration


    90 minutes
  • SubGenre


    Not Applicable
  • Accolades


    From Off-Broadway
  • Suggested Use

    Suggested Use

    • Cutting Approved for Competition
    • Monologues
    • Scene work
    • Competition or audition material
  • Audience

    Target Audience

    • Appropriate for all audiences
    • Adult
    • Senior
    • Teen (Age 14 - 18)

Additional Info

This is the touching story of a fisherman living on a remote Irish island who has fallen in love with a woman he's glimpsed only once. Unschooled in letter writing, he tries his utmost to court by mail and after a year and a half succeeds in arranging a rendezvous at which, to his surprise, she persuades him to live with her in Liverpool. Their love affair ends when he is forced to return to a life he understands.

From the author: "If this play is about anything, it might be about knowing our place. Especially in liquid times, when we can easily flow wherever, and seemingly become whatever. To hold a way of life, something secretly treasured, maybe without knowing it, has become and obsolete idea, now called stagnation. But being mobile, trading up, "bettering yourself" is a respectable life's work, while other, simpler concerns are postponed."

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  • Winner! Los Angeles Drama Critics' Circle Award, Best Play
    Winner! Canadian National Regional Theatre Award


“High Marks for Sea Marks” – Walter Kerr, THE New York Times

“Utterly Winning” – New York Magazine

“Funny, Touching, Well Crafted” –  The Associated Press

"[Sea Marks] stands apart not just for its two strong performances but for the sheer beauty of its language... McKay...writes with what seems like a deep understanding of Irish culture and of the men and women who populate some of its lonely shores." - TheatreMania

“Unabashedly Romantic. A first Rate Production.” -Newsday

"A masterpiece." - Tribune, Worcester, Mass.

"There's abundant humor, surprisingly honest humor, that grows between two...people who love each other but whose lives simply cannot be fused...It could easily last forever in actors' classrooms and audition studios." - The New Yorker

"Deserves the fame it has achieved in regional theaters around the country." - Albany Times Union


Friendship, Love


Performing Groups

  • College Theatre / Student
  • Community Theatre
  • Dinner Theatre
  • Professional Theatre
  • Reader's Theatre
  • Shoestring Budget
  • Large Stage
  • Blackbox / Second Stage /Fringe Groups


  • Caution Alcohol Alcohol
  • Caution Mild Adult Mild Adult Themes

License details

  • Minimum Fee: $90 per performance



  • Time Period: Contemporary, Present Day
  • Duration: 90 minutes
  • Setting: The recent past. Cliffhorn Heads, and island in the west of Ireland; a cottage there, a graveyard. And Liverpool; a flat, a ladies club. The terrible beauty of a remote Irish island.The set is not as important as the illusion of a set. As long as the action is allowed to flow across the stage, scenes can have natural movement. As long as the lighting of the stage is not spiritless, the set can change and the actors will be given a fair chance to perform the play.
  • Additional Features: Play w/ Music
  • Features / Contains: Contemporary Costumes / Street Clothes


  • Musical Style: N/A (Not a musical)
  • Vocal Demands: N/A (Not a musical)


1m, 1f

COLM PRIMROSE - An Irish fisherman from the western islands
TIMOTHEA STILES - a lady, not much younger than Colm, who was once from Wales.

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Cast Attributes

  • Strong Role for Leading Man (Star Vehicle)
  • Strong Role for Leading Woman (Star Vehicle)

Casting Notes

Colm can be played realistically between the ages of 35 and 65. Loneliness, or aloneness, is not exclusive. Timothea should not be younger than her late 20's. Her age should rise proportionately to his, or his to hers, but not above her mid-fifties. Occasionally, Timothea lapses into a strong, Welsh country accent; rich, rhythmic sounds coming from vaguely the same Celtic origins as Colm’s Irish. She works in Liverpool, to her mind “only halfway to London.” Colm’s dialect is the calm, songing accent of the west. Colm is a laborer not a yachtsman. Overall, less is more. These accents, fully done, might act as a soporific to certain audiences.



Gardner McKay

George Cadogan Gardner McKay (1932-2001) was born in Manhattan, New York City. His early years were spent in France, Connecticut, and Kentucky. At age fifteen, he published his first story. He attended Cornell University where he edited the humor magazine, wrote a film review column for the paper, and was briefly presi ...

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Sea Marks was first presented by Dana Matthow and Debroah Matthow at The Players Theatre, New York City. It was directed by John Stix. The play has subsequently been produced in New York City in Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway productions; as well as the Eisenhower Theatre, Kennedy Center in Washington, DC; productions throughout the United States and Canada, and Europe. The play was also presented in 1993 at the Edinburgh Festival.

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