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Seventeen-year-old Owen is in love with Sarah. Sarah is in love with Sean and his rich lifestyle. Sean used to love Sarah, but now he’s moved on. With the help of a mysterious, Faustian source of inspiration, called the Host, Sarah comes up with a plan to secure her future that unwittingly draws everyone into her tangled web of lies. Owen’s friend, Tommy, is complicit in Owen’s inescapable fate, and Sarah’s friend, Julie, must decide between loyalty and telling the truth. The four young characters are portrayed individually and as a chorus who, along with the Host, offer their cryptic and often sarcastic thoughts inside and outside the action. The Tangled Web uses theatrical techniques to investigate issues that surround the consequences of irresponsible sexual activity. It examines peer relationships, influences, and the boundaries of loyalty. How far would you go to obtain your heart’s desire?

In the special interactive forum that follows, the audience is given the opportunity to further explore the characters’ choices and actions.

The play was commissioned, devised with and premiered by Graffiti Theatre Company, Cork, Ireland.

The American version was commissioned and premiered by The Coterie, Kansas City, Mo., and received a prestigious AT&T FirstStage Award from the Theatre Communications Group.


My plays are driven by characters and relationships, not necessarily by issues, but it is crucial to connect the personal journeys of the characters to concerns of the larger world.

The main character in The Tangled Web is a teenage girl who finds herself poor, pregnant and alone.  In Ireland at that time, abortion was illegal and even discussing the concept was, in many circles, culturally taboo, so as the character considers her options (ultimately deciding to have the baby), she uses the common phrase for an abortion: ‘go over to London’.  Additionally, embedded in  the set design was specific information about where young peple who saw the play could get help – phone numbers and websites of actual social service agencies. 

In the US, strong language can be an issue in plays for young audiences. Gatekeepers, school officials, and parents are uncomfortable with certain four letter words in popular use.  In Ireland, the language of teens, including four letter words, is EXPECTED in a play for that age group. And so I found myself unhampered in expressing the everyday language of young adults. I don’t have the same freedom in the US.  For example, The Tangled web contains a scene in which  two young adults – a girl and boy – talk about whether or not to use a condom.  I wrote the scene without using the word condom because I knew it would not be accepted in the US in a play for young adults.

Slang words and expressions are different as well.  For example, the word ‘deadly,’ in 1997, was widely used in Ireland to mean ‘cool’.  I had never heard that usage in the US.  Names of characters in the The Tangled Web reflected popular names in Ireland in the original production but were changed in the published version in the US.


The Tangled Web refuses to pander to its audience and acknowledges that “happy endings” are the stuff of storybooks, not necessarily real life…This play struck a chord, what better argument for the relevance of theatre.”

~ Kansas City.com 

Available from: Dramatic Publishing