The Playboy of the Western World
1515 SW Morrison St.
“There’s a great gap between a gallous story and a dirty deed.” So says the sharp-tongued Pegeen Mike in J.M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World. There’s also a great gap between Synge’s dense, Shakespeare-meets-County Mayo dialogue and our modern ears, but somehow, in this rare revival at Artists Repertory Theatre, nothing gets lost in translation. Synge’s satirical masterpiece tells the story of Christy Mahon, a young man who earns the admiration of a tiny Irish hamlet when he announces that he has just murdered his father. It’s a decidedly odd premise, and when Playboy debuted in Dublin in 1907, it gave rise to riots in the streets. Irish Catholics took umbrage at what they saw as Synge’s disrespectful depiction of their countrymen, and it’s true that many of the characters do not come off as the brightest kerosene in the lamp. But Synge’s point wasn’t to ridicule rural Micks; it was to skewer humankind’s ridiculous obsession with celebrity culture. Though Christy is initially revered, he discovers the pitfalls of sudden fame when his father unexpectedly shows up, sporting a bloody head bandage and spoiling for revenge. Realizing they’ve been duped by a tall tale, the town turns on Christy and satire gives way first to slapstick and, finally, to poignant tragedy. Thanks to a talented cast and Dámaso Rodriguez’s inspired direction, this production hits all the right notes. Amy Newman is perfect as Pegeen, whose rough edges are briefly softened by love. Chris Murray, meanwhile, is a revelation as the playboy, inhabiting that winning space between cunning and vulnerability. Synge wrote Playboy partially as an antidote to shallow musical comedy, which he saw as the enemy to the true joy that live theater should provide. He was sure that, by sticking close to reality, he could create something “superb and wild.” This production is both of those things.
Where: Artists Repertory Theatre
Address: 1515 SW Morrison St.