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

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note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark

"The Playboy of The Western World"

by John Millington Synge
Directed by Spiro Veloudos

Set Design by Brynna Bloomfield
Costume Design by Jana Durland Howland
Lighting Design by Karen Perlow
Stage Manager Michele Keith

Christopher Mahon.........Aidan Parkinson
Old Mahon..................Michael Bradshaw
Pegeen Mike............Chandra Pieragostini
Shawn Keough..................Phillip Patrone
Widow Quin......................Sheila Stasack
Michael James Flaherty........John Morgan
Philly Cullen................David Michael Fox
Jimmy Farrell.............................Bob Jolly
Sara Tansey.............Charlotte Anne Dore
Susan Brady...................Gloria Hennessy
Honor Blake................Karen Woodward
Nelly..................................Carissa White

The night I saw "The Playboy of The Western World" (25 March) the Lyric Stage's new artistic director Spiro Veloudos was back to look at his show, and perhaps he was still working toward an overall shape for the show. All the details were exhuberantly alive and the actors enjoyed themselves immensely, but I missed what has always been the Veloudos trademark --- a clear, clean skewer holding the meaty shiskebob together.

There's not an actor onstage that isn't interesting to hear and to watch --- speaking or not. The plot has a ragged but handsome blarney-spouting young man wandering into a small-town pub confessing he split his overbearing father's head with a shovel --- to the adam's-apple, he embroiders later, and then to his belt-buckle. The braggart excites not terror but the admiration of the local men and the giggly flirtations of half a dozen local ladies, with everyone onstage lilting out a brogue that's often more music than sense but puts any opera to shame.

Aidan Parkinson playing the young wag, and John Morgan the owner of the bar, both acted in Dublin, but their authentic accents blend well into the mix. And like everyone else they know how to take the stage and make it their own. Morgan, blind drunk after a three-day wake, lurches with dangerous authenticity from one piece of furniture to another (drunker that either David Michael Fox or Bob Jolly playing his mates, though that must be seen to be believed). Parkinson glows with increasing brightness basking in admiration as a fought-over sex-object. And poor Phillip Patrone as the teetotal only available bachelor in town wears his puny petulence in every stance and gesture.

And there's not a blushing violet among the ladies, neither. There's a whole quartet of lusty lasses, barefoot to the flash of dirty thigh, each individual and indistinguishable in their competition to be noticed. They're easily upstaged though by Sheila Stasack's direct and experienced widow --- who can flip a door closed with the flick of a finger --- and Chandra Pieragostini as the landlord's barmaid daughter.

Trust the Irish to opt for polysyllabacy whenever possible. Given the name Margaret Flaherty most nations would call her Peg or Meg, but Michael Flaherty's daughter will be Pegeen Mike in this western Irish townlet. And it's not last Tuesday, but back when Tuesday was a week. Most people say an um and an er when they're pausing to think and may be tired or dead tired, but the Irish will be Destroyed --- surely. Drunk on words they are, and on potent poteen besides.

And, drunk as they are on the spinning of it rather than the tale itself, they glory so in each detail, each scene, each deliciously polished phrase and interaction, that they don't add it up at the final blackout. Is their proud patricide struck in love with the barmaid, or hoping for a cushy job as landlord if he marries her? Is it the admiration of the crowd that makes him a bold winner, or only his wagging tongue? Is Michael Bradshaw --- his scalp not his skull split --- cruelly deserving of murder, or the put-upon parent of a wastrel boy? Is every West-Irish bog-town full only of old drunks and eager maidens, with all the young men long gone to Boston over the emerald seas? Where, Spiro, is that thin steel shishekebob you have used so often before....surely?


"The Playboy of The Western World" (till 12 April)
140 Clarendon Street, BOSTON

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide