Through October 7
THE PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD Shaw Festival/Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre
“The Playboy of the Western World” is considered a classic play in Irish literature, of a rural community which adopts and praises a wanderer because he tells them he murdered his father.
After all, would a group of ordinary citizens accept and encourage a violent young man and keep him away from the police?
That’s what people in this rural corner of County Mayo do when Christy Mahon (Qasim Khan) tells the customers of a rural, decrepit bar of killing his Dad.
The operator of the bar is Pegeen Mike (Marla McLean).
The catch is that Old Mahon (Ric Reid) isn’t dead.
The word that someone has killed Old Mahon brings out the women in the village to approve and back him and consider him as the new man in their own lives.
Report him to the Royal Irish Constabulary?
Even the old men of the village don’t seem too concerned about the claimed murder since the Mahon village is a few days walk away.
Pegeen hires Christy and moves him in.
Widow Quin presents the monetary values of him becoming her new husband.
Christy Mahon becomes the center of village activity, including the annual race along the beach below the village.
That’s when Old Mahon shows up and Christy’s claims and his hopes for the future fall apart.
He has been following his son’s trail across rural Ireland, with his head wrapped in a bloody bandage.
The son is so intimidated by his father that the two head back to their rural village, leaving the women behind.
When J. M. Synge put this play on the stage, there was rioting for his portrayal of the West of Ireland, perhaps the most poverty-ridden section of the island beyond Dublin.
It’s regarded as great theater and the issues of good and evil remain.
That’s why the play continues to be performed.
Now, this production of “Playboy” is being performed in the Shaw Festival’s Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre, with Maxwell at the helm.
As a native of Northern Ireland, she’s familiar with the issues across Ireland across time and issues.
The two key performers here are Reid’s Old Mahon and Fiona Byrne’s Widow Quin.
The acting is important because the nature of the Studio Theatre limits any set, although Judith Bowden has contributed enough to let the door and bar furniture help tell the story.
The afternoon I saw “The Playboy of the Western World,” the theater was fairly crowded.
Afterwards, there was clearly discussion of the story and that’s never a bad thing.
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