The play concerns Charlie and his memories of his now deceased father, the eponymous Da. He is sitting in the kitchen of his father's house going through the detritus of his father's life. Charlie has moved away from the small Irish town in which his father raised him. He is visited by an old friend from his youth and they exchange a few pleasantries and chat. As he leaves Da appears. Da is an on-stage personification of Charlie's memory of his deceased father. This is the one interesting element of the play.
The rest of the action unfolds as flashbacks played out by Da and other memory figures as Charlie sorts out his feelings and responses to the passing of his father. Da and Charlie's younger self can and do parlay with the contemporary Charlie which makes for some amusing exchanges. This memory presentation is nicely theatrical and fun to see. None of the other characters see the contemporary Charlie so the rules of this convention are a bit muddy.
The problem with the play is that D'as character lacks something. I can't quite put my finger on it. He is meant to be some kind of polemic that has haunted and dogs Charlie all through his life in some profound way. And yet Da is not all that interesting a character. He is an unambitious working class Irishman content with his demeaning menial work as a gardener. He is proud of his ability to coax the best from roses but fails to realize how others mock and exploit him.
The most memorable exchange for me is one where Da extols the virtues of Hitler's Germany and how a fascist government would be good for Ireland. It is, I'm sure, a sentiment shared by some of the Irish of 1937 and I liked the thinking about the political situation in Ireland that would lead someone to such an opinion.
Basically I am surprised the play had such success. I found it bland and competent, never rising to a place where I felt moved or excited by the events. The language is not that inspiring either. I also closed the cover feeling as though something vital had never been revealed. I'm not saying I like plays to answer every question in a pat and fixed way, but there was something lacking.
The play ends with the revelation that Da had been saving the money Charlie had been sending him to live on as a bequest for Charlie. Charlie leaves vowing to have no more to do with Da and banishes him forthwith from his thoughts. Da, however pursues him and it clear that Da will remain with Charlie whether he likes it or not. I like the idea that we can never be truly free from those who raise us whether we follow their example or rebel against it, as Charlie has, but there was something else I felt I needed to hear that was never said and what that was exactly I can't say.