Shadow and Substance

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Shadow and Substance is an award-winning four-act play written in 1937 by Paul Vincent Carroll. In 1938 it won the New York Drama Critics' Circle award for best foreign play. First published by Samuel French in 1944.

Set in Ireland, the play has a cast of six men and four women. According to George Jean Nathan

"deals with the Catholic Church in Ireland. Its theme lies in the ramifications of faith as practiced by the Church's various constituents…faith that, for all its sincerity, has drifted from its deepest moorings, and the manner in which a true, steadfast, innocent, and unselfish believer, a young girl, brings the contentious others, through the uncorrupted purity and simplicity of her own faith, back to first principles. And the role of the young girl, a little caretaker in the house of the canon, though built out of materials that in cruder hands would quickly betray their spirit and such a restrained gentility of writing ink that, if it is cast at all appropriately, it can hardly fail to dig into an audience's emotions. The straw out of which Carroll has fabricated his bricks and built his play is of a superior quality, and his dramatic structure, as a consequence, mounts aloft with eloquence and power."[1]

Charlie Chaplin had purchased the film rights in 1942 and wrote a script, intending to cast Joan Barry in the lead. Their subsequent relationship lead to legal troubles and a public downturn in Chaplin's popularity, so the project was never begun, and the script remains in the Chaplin archives.[1]


Sara Allgood in the original Broadway production of Shadow and Substance (1938)

Shadow and Substance was produced by Eddie Dowling at the John Golden Theatre on January 26, 1938. Directed by Peter Godfrey, settings by David M. Twachtman, costumes by Helene Pons, and the art director was James C. Scully. The cast was as follows (in order of appearance):


[2] complete play