The Playboy of the Western World
nytheatre.com review by Debbie Hoodiman
October 6, 2006
Every girl loves a dangerous man! John Millington Synge's comedy The Playboy of the Western World explores this common theme when a filthy stranger who claims to have killed his father shows up one night in a small Irish pub in a small Irish town, and all of the ladies of the town instantly seek his attention.
The Aisling Arts production is perfectly played in Long Island City's New York Irish Center, where the designers have turned the open area of what appears to be the main room of the center into the show's family-owned pub. With the Irish flag on the wall, a small bar in the corner, a "7 Bits of Irish Wisdom" sign on a post, and a couple of tables, the set is perfect. Because the show is played almost in full round, the actors move around the pub in such a natural fashion that the audience feels like it's witnessing events, not watching a production.
The naturalism of the set and blocking mixes well with the over-the-top nature of the plot and the broadness of the play's characters. It seems that all of the excitement of the small Irish town where the play is set comes from the eccentric town natives. The play reminded me of one of Shakespeare's comedies, and I suspect that it is very fun for the actors to play.
Under Bryn Manion and Wendy Remington's direction, all of the actors in the ensemble cast give performances that suit the style of the comedy well. I felt particularly impressed with the three town girls played by Claire Byrne, Kate DiMarco, and Giverny Petitmermet. They are so excitable, so eccentric, so BIG that their performances could have easily seemed ridiculous, but they somehow make "big" look like "natural" so that the characters looked (rightly) ridiculous, not the performers. I also particularly loved Moti Margolin as Old Mahon for the same reason. It's not easy to pull off the kind of comedy that this play demands from its performers. Patrick Alberty's poor, pathetic Shawn Keogh is also lovely, and Angela Sommerfeld's Widow Quin seems strong, foolish, and funny. The remaining actors, Bernard Smith as Jimmy Farrell, Clare McCarthy as Pegeen Mike, Patrick O'Connor as Michael James Flaherty, and Drew Valins as title character Christy Mahon also gave realistic, complicated, and hilarious performances.