A comic shaggy-dog tale — The Playboy of the Western World

A comic shaggy-dog tale — The Playboy of the Western World

production photos by Craig Schwartz

Rioting ensued when Irish playwright John Millington Synge”™s colloquial masterpiece The Playboy Of The Western World was first staged in 1907. Theatregoers were appalled and affronted by Synge”™s bold depiction of these common country folk and he was accused of presenting Irish women in an inflammatory and derogatory fashion.

Rightly so – the characters in this play are little more than dirty, squabbling simpletons. Yet Synge countered criticism by claiming that the women and the dialogue in his plays were drawn from actual conversations he had overheard between peasant women while living on the Aran Islands.

A weird but lingering play, The Playboy Of The Western World is a theatrical curiosity piece. The plot concerns a grimy drifter named Christy Mahon (Michael A. Newcomer) who staggers into the central tavern of a small village with his lurid tale of patricide. This larrikin has the grubby charm and good looks of Colin Farrell type. Right away he wins the hearts of the sleepy village locals with his tale of woe, initially describing himself as a “poor orphan traveler with a prison behind and the gallows ahead and hell beneath.”

But the locals are more interested in vicariously enjoying his story than in condemning the immorality of his murderous deed. Pretty soon the handsome young fellow is being lauded as some sort of hero and pursued by several of the womenfolk with designs of marriage.  One lass with romance in her eyes is barmaid Pegeen Mike (Lindsay Gould), the daughter of Flaherty (Apollo Dukakis), who owns the tavern. As her father puts it, “A daring fellow is the jewel of the world.”

Almost everyone fetes the dashing stranger until his not-so-dead-after-all Da (Geoff Elliott) shows up”¦

Also directed by Geoff Elliot, A Noise Within”™s production does this odd play a great service by presenting it with as much historical authenticity as possible. Although playing in repertory with two other plays, the rustic set, with its straw thatched ceiling, seems permanent. The impoverished country characters go about in threadbare clothing with grubby, bare feet and faces that haven”™t seen a good wash in a decade. The Irish brogue is thick and convincing, with the entire cast doing well with their accents and bringing a hefty swagger to their readings of the poetic imagery and musicality of the old-fashioned language.

production photos by Craig Schwartz

It is once we get to the boisterous third act, with its salty and disparaging descriptions of women and the general devolution to chaos with everyone fighting like a pack of lunatics, do we realize why this play was so controversial in its time.

Currently playing in repertory along with Much Ado About Nothing and Awake and Sing!, The Playboy of the Western World closes on Saturday, May 22nd, 2010.


Thursday, April 29, 8 pm
Friday, April 30, 8 pm
Sunday, May 9, 2 pm
& Sunday, May 9, 7 pm
Wednesday, May 12, 8 pm
Thursday, May 13, 8 pm
Friday, May 14, 8 pm
Saturday, May 15, 2 pm
& Saturday, May 15, 8 pm
Saturday, May 22, 2 pm
& Saturday, May 22, 8 pm

A Noise Within
234 South Brand Blvd.,
Glendale, CA 91204

$44 (Friday and Saturday evenings, Sunday matinees);
$40 (Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings, Saturday matinees);
$30 (Previews).
Group rates and special rates for school groups available

818-240-0910 x1

Review by Pauline Adamek

Pauline Adamek

Pauline Adamek is a Los Angeles-based arts enthusiast with twenty-five years' experience covering International Film Festivals and reviewing new Theatre, Film and Restaurants.



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