Several years ago, Dublin-born playwright Bryan Delaney faced a conundrum common to members of his profession: He had a play to write, but no ideas.
So he sat silently at his desk in the coachman's cottage of a 16th century castle in County Carlow and waited for inspiration to strike.
It came in flickers and fragments.
First, the image of a house being overtaken by plants took root in his brain. Then he noticed the castle's owner walking past his door in a pair of paint-stained jeans and wool sweater, carrying a birdcage. Finally, he recalled an overheard snippet of an argument between a woman he assumed to be a husband and wife.
Less creative writers would hardly be able to cobble together a Facebook post from this half-formed jumble of abstract images.
But for Delaney, it was enough to put down a layer of fertilizer for what would eventually become "The Seedbed," a four-person play about the mutation of a misbegotten idea. It receives its local premiere March 10 in an Irish Classical Theatre Company production in the Andrews Theatre.
Delaney, whose award-winning debut "The Cobbler" received its first and only production at the Irish Classical in 2005, described his working process as the gradual transformation of huge amounts of raw material into a tightly constructed piece of dramatic literature.
"I believe there's two phases to it. The first is to open the valve to the unconscious mind. I believe that's where the gold is," he said during a recent visit to Buffalo to watch rehearsals. "Then you apply the craft and the technique to harness it: Who needs what, why do they need it, what's underneath that need, what do they do to get it, what's blocking them from the other characters who are the sources of antagonism and resistance, and, crucially, what are the sources of antagonism and resistance within that character's own nature?"
In "The Seedbed," the conflicts are clear from the start. The story centers on a small family in a crisis: a husband, wife, their 18-year-old daughter and her recently acquired boyfriend.
"It's a battleground that takes place over about four days," Delaney said. But the battle of wills between father, mother, daughter and boyfriend is just the surface story. Deeper down, he said, the play is about how a thought takes root in one family member's mind and undergoes a strange mutation as it spreads from one person to the next.
"It's almost like a game of psychological Chinese whispers that travels through the family and threatens to tear down the entire family structure," he said. "They all go off on their own florid psychological bender."
News critic Richard Huntington called Delaney's first effort, "The Cobbler," "a new play of such compelling narrative structure, linguistic brilliance and audacious theatrical imagination that it seems the product of a mature, time-honed talent rather than the first effort of a young, unpublished Dublin-born author."
This will be the third full production of "The Seedbed," which was also produced at the New Jersey Repertory Company and the Redtwist Theatre in Chicago. It is directed by Greg Natale and stars Kristin Tripp-Kelley, Chris Kelley, Eric Rawski and Arianna Davidow.
What: "The Seedbed"
When: March 10 to April 2
Where: Andrews Theatre, 625 Main St.
Info: 853-4282 or irishclassicaltheatre.com