stephen c said - Thanks for the interesting review. In defense of English (without the Irish admixture) play-wrighting skills, nobody can doubt that if Dickens had created A Christmas Carol or a couple of his novels as plays they would have been ... stupendous ! I love the youth comment from Sheridan - its generosity and expansiveness are an improvement over the also very funny Falstaff comment, from the scene where he tells a justice of the peace that he (the justice of the peace) underestimates the youth of the world (including himself, Falstaff). In this (limited) comparison, Shakespeare is the one with too much bantering and frivolity and Sheridan is more artistic....Also , did you forget Peter Pan? or did that not start as a play? and maybe the Wrong Box - I don't remember where, but someone said the plot was as good as the plot of Quixote or the best Greek tragedy. Maybe they were both after Shaw's first plays.
@stephen - I had indeed forgotten the play of Peter Pan - but that was 1905, while Shaw's first play that has survived as canon (Mrs Warren's Profession) and Wilde's Importance of Being Earnest were both mid 1890s.An exceptional, optimal performance can raise a relatively slight play considerably - I saw an extremely funny version of AW Pinero's The Magistrate on TV (from 1885) - but when I later saw a more normal level of production, the play seemed like a tedious waste of time, and I was not surprised it had dropped from view. The best plays, and the ones which last, require no more than competent perfomances to be rewarding. I once saw an amateur version of Shaw's Man and Superman in which there were only two decent actors (playing Jack and Anne) - yet the production was nonetheless enjoyable because the play is so strong.