Joe Egg is the nickname Bri and Sheila have given their severely brain damaged child, who is 10 years old at the time of the play. Since she cannot function as a normal human child, they make up conversations for her and invent personalities, though Joe never actually says anything, or even shows any ability to crawl or reach for something.

Her parents make up all kinds of little scenes which they act as if they recounted the history of how Joe got to be so damaged and how many useless therapies and "magics" they had tried to cure her. At one point Bri tries to "let" his daughter die, by not giving her medicine and by exposing her to winter cold, but he doesn't succeed. By the end of the play, he has left Sheila and Joe to themselves.


This play exemplifies many of the difficulties in trying to care for a totally dependent child who cannot even respond to the parents. Such strains erode fragile relationships and prevent a couple from building mutual respect and affections. The playacting on the part of the parents helps them avoid really talking to each other about their own needs. The tensions created by the parents' guilt and the endless responsibility of caregiving take their toll on the marriage. The tragedy is not only the damaged child but also the ruined marriage.


Joe Egg won the Evening Standard Award for best play (1967) and a Tony Award for best revival (1985).



Place Published

New York



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