Come Back, Little Sheba

by William Inge

The Bethany Mission Gallery
September 3 – 22, 2019
Directed by Tina Brock


An old house in one of those semi-respectable neighborhoods in a Midwestern city.


Running time is approximately 95 minutes, with no intermission.

Doc Delaney
John Zak
Marie Buckholder
Barbaraluz Orlanda
Lola Delaney
Tina Brock
Carlos Forbes
Postman/Ed Anderson
Kassy Bradford
Tomas Dura

Costume Designer

Erica Hoelscher

Lighting Design

Noah Lee

Set Design

Tina Brock, Chad Haddad & Erica Hoelscher

Sound Design

Tina Brock

Stage Manager / Board Operator

Chad Haddad


Tina Brock & Mark Williams

Technical Director

Bob Schmidt

Photoshop Magic

Bill Brock


Johanna Austin / AustinArt.org

Cover Photo

Richard Tuschman / Millennium Images, UK


Special thanks to the following artsts:


Our special thanks to the following artists:
Bill Frisell – Nashville
Bill Frisell, David Holland, Elvin Jones – Moon River
Robin Holcomb – Rockabye
Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Mais Que Nada
Ben Folds Five – The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner


Come Back, Little Sheba (2019)

“...this powerful reappraisal of Come Back, Little Sheba will live on in your memory long after the lights go up…”
--David Fox, Reclining Standards
Come Back, Little Sheba (2019)

“...the IRC revival of Come Back is a most accomplished piece of theatre…a welcome revival...Tina Brock’s Lola is a stellar performance in its own right, a marvelous creation...Zak perfectly embodies a man painfully uncomfortable in his own skin.”
--Richard Lord, Philadelphia Free Press
Come Back, Little Sheba (2019)

“...Brock makes a charming, touching, patiently suffering Lola... Zak’s portrayal of Doc moves from stiff Alcoholics Anonymous-adherent to hatchet-wielding, out-of-control drunk, and finally to puppy-dog repentance…”
--Lynn Matluck Brooks, thINKing DANCE
Come Back, Little Sheba (2019)

Director’s Notes + Dramaturg’s Notes


Welcome to the 2019 Philadelphia Fringe, the IRC's 14th year participating.

This production marks the IRC's first foray into the work of William Inge. Many years on the list of must tackle authors for the IRC, the timing seemed right given where we are as a nation. I was curious to explore the themes Inge so beautifully renders in this time and place under the IRC lens.

This is the first kitchen sink drama the IRC's ever attempted. It is fitting that the sink, garbage disposal, oven and stove are the finest we will every encounter on any set in the years to come. Thank you to Victor Keen and Jeanne Ruddy for opening their beautiful gallery for year #3 to allow this story to unfold in the most hyper realistic setting a director could envision.

Based on the feedback from IRC's Fringe 2018 production of Tennessee Williams' The Eccentricities of a Nightingale, I was excited to explore how Inge (Williams' contemporary) creates a similar feel through very different use of language. Having been born and raised in the Midwest, there is a longing for the simplicity of place my childhood memories hold. We hope you enjoy the production and that it leaves you with much to contemplate given our complicated world. Thank you for coming along with the IRC for the last 14 years. We are widening the scope of what absurdism means in a world where it's hard to compete with the current 24/7 news cycle. Art matters in this time and we thank you for helping the IRC to continue this journey.

Tina Brock
Producing Artistic Director

The Bard of Suburbia: William Inge in the 50’s Cameron Kelsall


In a small Midwestern town, a woman stands in her doorway and pines for her beloved poodle. The pup slipped across the threshold one day, never to be seen again. The dog’s absence is felt not just in the empty food bowl or the scattered toys left behind, but in every fiber of the woman’s being. This is the world of William Inge’s Come Back, Little Sheba.

It’s heartbreaking, but small: A play that hinges on the grief left in the wake of a lost pet. Of course, the animal represents much more than a furry companion – to Lola Delaney, the woman at the center of this 1950 drama, Little Sheba might as well be every hope and dream that slipped through her fingertips as she sputtered toward an unfulfilled middle age. More importantly, though, Inge treats Lola and everyone in her orbit – a collection of quietly desperate people either betrayed by their circumstances or bound to be someday – with sympathetic understanding, and even identification.

Come Back, Little Sheba thrust Inge into the spotlight, and it made an overnight star of its leading lady, a 52-year-old character actress named Shirley Booth. The story it tells is both of its moment and timeless. Lola and Doc Delaney struggle with existential issues of alcoholism, financial insecurity, and profound loss in ways that still feel familiar.

That familiarity is due in significant measure to a younger generation of American playwrights who were embracing a new kind of naturalism in depicting the lives of contemporary people who lived with these concerns every day. Inge was one of them – following in the steps of his own idol, Tennessee Williams, but breaking ground that was his own. Inge gave a pure, unadorned voice to the foibles of ordinary people that cuts across countless cultural divides.

For a brief moment in the 1950s, Inge stood shoulder to shoulder with Williams and Arthur Miller, unquestionably the most important playwrights of their day. Williams and Miller have largely held onto their elevated positions in the American dramatic canon, despite late careers marred by critical and commercial failures. Yet Inge – whose mature output spans just ten plays, one of which was never produced in his lifetime – has largely been assigned to the annals of theater history. A wave of renewed enthusiasm for his work shows just how much an audience gains when Inge is considered a major player in American drama, rather than merely a footnote.

In Philadelphia, we are lucky to have Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium revisiting Come Back, Little Sheba – particularly on the heels of their brilliant production of Williams’ The Eccentricities of a Nightingale last Fringe, a similar examination of a neglected masterpiece. The choice to stage this play at Bethany Mission Gallery is an inspired one. Nestled among the unique collection of outsider art are many practical appliances and household wares from the era in which the play was written. I imagine you could have found some of these treasures in the Delaney home, fitfully awaiting Little Sheba’s return. Cameron Kelsall is a Philadelphia-based theater critic. He regularly reviews theater for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and his byline has appeared in Philadelphia Gay News, Broad Street Review, American Theatre, Opera News and Exeunt NYC, among other publications.