Playboy of the Western World Theatre Review - A Noise Within's Production of J.M.Synge's Classic Provides Poetic End to 2009-2010 Season

Christy (Michael Newcomer) ponders his fate at the fire

(Glendale, CA) April, 2010 – Attached to the playbill for A Noise Within’s production of J.M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World is a disclaimer. Actually, it serves more as a kindly suggestion. During the early previews of the show, one of the patrons was trying to memorize the Irish phrases and locations that are mentioned throughout the play. The assumption was if one didn’t understand these phrases, then the enjoyment in watching the play would be lost. But both Artistic Directors Julia Rodriguez-Elliot and Geoff Elliot (the latter directing this 2009/2010 Season Finale) indicated that the best way to appreciate this play is to let the eloquence of the Irish dialect “wash over you,” to savor the essence of the setting, time, and characters, ultimately resulting in not only comprehending what the story is all about, but also appreciating its artistry.

This was a wise move by the artistic directors (thank God for Previews) because something as lyrical and complex as the Irish dialect can turn an impatient listener off. But after the first fifteen minutes of the show, the opening night audience was riveted to the tale that deals with life in a small Irish village and the love between two young souls. Director Geoff Elliot and his talented cast bring humor, pathos, and the lyrical dialogue of Synge’s masterpiece to the Glendale stage.
 
 

The gang at the tavern watch the donkey races

It’s a typical morning in a small town on the coast of County Mayo, Ireland. Pegeen Mike (Lindsay Gould) is tending bar owned by her father Michael James (a sympathetic, protective Apollo Dukakis). The regulars are enjoying their pints (scene-stealers William Dennis Hunt, Tim Venable, and Maxwell Schneller). And Shawn Keogh (a wonderfully whiny Brian Hostenske) pines for the affections of Michael James’ non-nonsense daughter, who, even though they are betrothed, couldn’t care less for him. But their routine is broken by the appearance of the mysterious Christy Mahon (Michael Newcomer), who is on the run for supposedly killing his father (played by the director Elliott, whose aging rascal-like nature is both pleasurable and frightening) in self-defense. Instead of being shocked and disturbed by this patricide, all the locals praise his bravery. And much to the chagrin of Shawn, Pegeen falls in love with Christy. His poetic and humble nature even attracts the attention of a trio of single women (hilariously portrayed by Rebecca Mason-Wygal, Alcia Bruckman, and Caitlyn Bruckman), as well as the eyes of the Widow Quin (Jill Hill), who discovers that Christy’s father was only severely wounded and is seeking revenge against his ungrateful son. All these events lead to the revelation of how impermanent village hospitality can be.

Widow Quin (Jill Hill)plots to send Old Man Mahon (Geoff Elliott) on a wild goose chase


 
The production is smarty broken into three acts, which aids in its pacing, especially since the play clocks in at two hours and fifteen minutes. As he did with the fall production of Noises Off, Elliott expertly maintains his balance between his faultless direction and his acting. Scenic Designer Stephen Gifford makes an impressive debut at A Noise Within by creating a tavern that perfectly captures the flavor of early 20th Century Irish culture. 

The acting is very naturalistic and genuine, right down to the dialects. Newcomer, Gould and Hill stand out among the gifted cast. Newcomer’s Christy is very reminiscent of his portrayal of Raskolnivkov in A Noise Within’s production of Crime and Punishment in terms of internal torment and intensity. However, Newcomer slowly reveals the more sensitive sides of Christy. He’s romantic, poetic, self-deprecating, witty, and God-fearing regarding the consequences of his actions. It’s this multi-faceted depiction that wins sympathy from the other characters, as well as from the audience. Lindsey Gould’s Pegeen is totally the opposite of her role in Much Ado About Nothing (which is performing in rep with Playboy and Awake and Sing!). Gould’s Hero was soft-spoken and virginal. Her Pegeen is fiery, hot-blooded, strong-willed and independent. Not even the patriarchal rule of her father can hold her down. And in the beginning of the play, she has her guard up with Christy. However, as the story unfolds, Gould shows Pegeen’s sensitivity and compassion. This layering of emotions is extremely subtle and Gould expertly sculpts her character’s arc like an artist performs on a piece of clay. And Jill Hill’s Widow Quin is a pleasure to watch as we see her initially as a scheming man-chaser. But instead of choosing the easy way out in playing a stereotype, Hill’s Quin is that of a lonely lost soul who is a prisoner of her own tragedies and tries her best to help Christy---the Playboy of the Western World---find some internal peace with the woman he loves.  And it is that exquisite journey that the audience sees in this impressive finale for A Noise Within’s 2009/2010 Season.

Pegeen (Lindsey Gould) and Christy (Michael Newcomer) share a romantic moment together


 
 
The Playboy of the Western World opened April 17, 2010 and runs through May 22, 2010


A Noise Within
234 South Brand Boulevard
Glendale, CA 91204

online: www.anoisewithin.org

Photos by: Craig Schwartz
 

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