Friday, April 23, 2010

Synge, Sing, Synge

Lindsay Gould (Pegeen) and Michael Newcomer (Christy Mahon)
Photo by Craig Schwartz

John Millington Synge’s Playboy of the Western World, currently in rep at A Noise Within sings with the rhythmic language of the Irish. In the great traditions of Joyce and Yeats, director Geoff Elliott skillfully brings the story of a wayward “playboy” to the stage with all the gusto that one expects from this well tuned professional theatre company. Stephen Gifford’s earthy set, a little pub in County Mayo on the foggy west coast of Ireland, greets the opening night’s guests. It’s the turn of the last century. One can almost feel the chill.

Pegeen Mike (fiery Lindsay Gould), somewhat against her will, tends her father’s pub, the gathering place for locals to ward off the chilly days and nights. Shawn Keogh (appropriately lumpy Brian Hostenske) arrives to make his moves, mostly unwelcome, upon the comely lass. Michael James Flaherty (versatile Apollo Dukakis in his most convincing turn) Pegeen’s da, is of the mind that Shawn should keep Pegeen company as he and his besotted pals, Philly Cullen (William Dennis Hunt) and Jimmy Farrell (Tim Venable) stumble off to attend a wake: a fine auld Irish tradition.

And, so it goes. The real crux of the story turns on Synge’s definition of “playboy.” Unlike our immediate vision of busty playmates with bunny ears, it turns out that the appearance of Christopher Mahon (oddly charismatic Michael A. Newcomer), cold and hungry, covered with the travels of a man on the run, becomes the one we come to know as a “true Playboy of the Western World,” Begorrah! Christy confesses in time that he’s killed his poor father, buried him and run away. This fascinates the locals, including the Widow Quin (lusty Jill Hill) and, in time, other eligible colleens, as well as the tough Pegeen. It seems that a playboy these fifty years before Hefner is a person who pulls off a fantastic feat. And, that, Christy has done.

Stage fog drifted about the actors like the dust cloud that surrounded Pigpen in Peanuts. If this was on purpose or an effect gone awry is unclear, but over all, once the fog had lifted, the energy and hard core acting skills bring the show along apace. The plot takes a couple of wicked turns with big surprises. Geoff Elliott appears as Old Mahon turning the story of the playboy on its ear, much to the appreciation of the opening night audience.

Soojin Lee’s earthy costumes work just fine. Ken Booth’s lighting is warm and cool all at the same time.

Through May 22nd in repertory with Much Ado and Awake and Sing
A Noise Within
234 S. Brand Boulevard
Glendale, CA
Tickets and information 818 240 0970 x1

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