Dorothy Parker is a figure of legendary literary reputation, a fabled member of the Algonquin Round Table, and a highly visible literary personality of the twenties and thirties. Brendan Gill called her "a writer whose robust and acid lucidities were much feared and admired." This play, long forgotten and unpublished until now, will bring new attention to her stirring work.
The Coast of Illyria may represent Parker's most mature writing. Based on the story of Charles and Mary Lamb, this play shares the deeply felt theme of abandonment which gives Parker's poetry its haunting quality, along with the rich understanding of despair that characterizes her stories and other plays. Here these issues are explored with a depth, a sensibility, and a subtlety unlike anything else she wrote.
As Arthur Kinney describes in his detailed introduction, when Parker and her putative coauthor, Ross Evans, sat through rehearsals revising the script, it was generally felt that Parker saw herself, at least potentially, as the tragic Mary Lamb. "I am Mary Lamb," she told the actress who played the role, "do you see that?"