James, a temporarily retired pimp, is on the run from a shadowy pursuer. His mother has just died and he is cynical to the point of despair about what should become of him. With him is Rosie, his long-time 'girl', who encourages him to think ahead, offering a less pessimistic view of his prospects.
In the forests through which they flee, James encounters a pretty, innocent girl of 17 named Anastasia. She has been alone a long time, and like many a fairy-tale woman, is awaiting a dashing saviour to arrive.
In his introduction, leading Irish critic Fintan O'Toole writes that 'The Morning After Optimism draws on Shakespeare's Forest of Arden for its setting, on Jungian psychology for its imagery, and on European fairytale for much of its shape, language and action . . . [it] is certainly no ordinary play, with its consciously artificial language, its use of fairytale characters, and its exploration of the relationship between illusion and freedom . . . Optimism proclaims itself by its setting, by its use of characters who dress and talk like they are well acquainted with the Brothers Grimm, for what it is: a play of the dream world.'
The Morning After Optimism was first performed at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, in March, 1971.