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The Playboy of the Western World

From the Aisle

The Playboy of the Western World, by J.M. Synge
RUNS FEB. 10-26

Review by Robert Pond

Somewhere along the coast of County Mayo on the western Ireland shore a village pub is the setting of J.M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World.  The play’s initial fame came from the riotous uproar in 1907 over the charge that Synge unfairly stereotyped the poor Irish of that day and time and made western Ireland specific in the charge.  But, time has helped transformed this play of peasant life from a riotous production into the Irish theatre classic it is.

The core in this comedy of parricide, love, and resurrection is self-deception.  UAA’s Theater and Dance Department and Tom Skore’s direction has provided an entertaining production of Synge’s lyrical piece.   The production values are generous, save the set design.  The set appears monolithic making the actors seem diminutive.

Christy Mahon, a story telling dreamer comes to a village and amid a hesitant community, confesses that he has killed his father.  Nonetheless, the young peasant farmer becomes something of a hero and celebrity who charms his way into village life, to the extent that he has a group of young girls, a widow, and a young bar maid chasing after him-until Da turns up, alive.

There are some first rate acting talents in UAA’s The Playboy of the Western World. Kitty Mahoney give us a good Pegeen-Mike who falls in love with the young Christy.  While not overly spirited, Mahoney presents Pegeen as an in charge young woman.  Mahoney has one of those moments in the second act when Christy doesn’t seem to Pegeen as promising as she thought.  You can almost see her rethink her possibilities with the less than heroic Shawn (Kyle Pealatere).  Mr. Pealatere gives an impressive performance as the spineless wannabe suitor to Pegeen.  He seems to add dimension to his character as the play progresses. You can almost believe that it will be Shawn who will eventually tame Pegeen.   Kordel Thompson as Michael is clearly a seasoned actor with an impressive range and he takes great comfort when he is on the stage.  He makes an audience feel safe.  Caleb Bourgeois makes it apparent that he is a hard working actor trying to flesh out his character.  His role of Christy Mahon is less a great storyteller than that of a desperate sometimes hysterical young man in search of an escape.   Max Aronson as the Christy’s Da (Old Mahon) is a bit youthful in his movements, which contradicts Old Mahon’s age if not his near-death experience at the hands of his son.  The comic relief team of Jaron Carlson (Philly) and Eric Holzschuh (Jimmy) is truly an entertainment not to be missed.  But when all is said and done, the stage belongs to Jessica Pervier-Brown whose character of the Widow Quin is among the better performances of the evening.  She’s the one you can’t take your eyes off.   Jessica brings a lot to the table.

UAA’s laboratory of theatre education has produced an important work and because of the play’s contribution to the theater’s study of people, The Playboy of the Western World is a piece that should be produced again and again.


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