Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Playboy of The Western World"

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note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Larry Stark

"The Playboy of The Western World"

by John Millington Synge
Directed by Nora Hussey

Fight Choreographer Hugh Long
Set & Lighting Design by Ken Loewit
Co-Costume Design by Katie Bartunek & Nancy Stevenson
Sound Design by George Cook
Properties by Cheryl Lister
Assistant Stage Manager Kat Chen
Stage Manager Sarah Hilary Johnson

Pegeen Mike.......................Kelly Galvin
Shawn Keogh.......................Danny Bolton
Michael James Flaherty......Derek Stone Nelson
Jimmy Farrell...................Shelley Bolman
Philly Cullen.......................Will Keary
Christy Mahon.................Lewis D. Wheeler
Widow Quin........................Vicky George
Sara Tansey........................Lily Saffer
Susan Bradey..................Ashley Gramolini
Old Mahon...........................John Davin

"On the stage one must have reality and one must have joy..."
So says the playwright John Millington Synge, quoted in the program 102 years after his comic masterpiece "The Playboy of The Western World" was new --- and I agree. He makes much here, too, of the poetical inventiveness of his small-town Irishmen turning any roadside pub into a literary goldmine. And sure and that's true. With Director Nora Hussey prodding them on this cast finds and glories in the lilting lyrical flights of Synge's characters, their admiring forgiveness toward a dad-murderin boyo tellin his tale like a Taliesin deckin hisself out as a living Finn McCool. But as the tale unfolded I felt a naggin imp scratchin at me mind sayin good as they go there's something they're missing. And it wasn't till stubbly stormy little old John Davin burst thrugh the door, a shillelagh clutched in his angry hand, that I saw what it was.

They've got the lilt and the language and the joy down cold they have, but not the reality. Davin does, and his pint-sized old powerhouse puts the lot of 'em to shame in contrast. Till he come in, the realest of them's young Lewis D. Wheeler, with his tale of doin his farmer Da with the sudden angry blow of a digging-spade after years of spite and insult and beatings. And him a hero fer it in the admiring eyes of the crowd. Wheeler grows, he does, from a tired, shameful traveller running from his deed into the darlin of the town, a winner of every sportin game --- and of the eye and the hand of the proudly pretty landlord's daughter what runs the pub while her Da's off to hoist a few at any local wake.

Now, it's not that they're bad actors I'm sayin.The local louts and lasses learnt their lines, and know just how a single stumble can signal a drop or two taken without saying "drunk" out loud. They know their places in the plot, take the stage and come in fully themselves yet in no way disturbin the flow. Yet on the small and intimate stage everyone arranges themselves as though posing, rather than being. Synge's singing flights of eloquence spew from mouths a bit more self-impressed than self-grounded --- careful more often to hit every consonant that to score every emotion. At least, until Davin blows in like a tornado through a wheat-field --- a deadly bowling-ball knockin everythin skew-whiff. There's reality personified.

Or is it just me? I had the feeling these Mayo men and women could load peat into a fire yet never wipe a hand, nor never worry if a coin came up after a cup of porter went down. For all her sassin' her schoolmasterish intended (Danny Bolton), the independent Pegeen Mike (Kelly Galvin) looks more like she's waitin for that unexpected playboy to come sweep her off her feet than tendin' her da's shibeen. Ah, but here and it's been a hunnert and two years since that shibeen first opened, a good lot o porter's flowed over our gums, and maybe with the still bright words of John Millington Synge to be dealt with, maybe clarity over sincerity is the best way after all. Certainly no one sittin about me seemed to share my complaint. See for yerselves.

"The Playboy of The Western World" (5 - 29 March)
@ Schneider Hall, Wellesley College Campus, WELLESLEY MA
1 (781) 2832000

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