But for the Bloody Hands, a Fine Lad Indeed
A Review of ‘The Playboy of the Western World,’ in Madison
By ANITA GATES | The New York Times
Women love bad boys, they say. But in J. M. Synge’s timeless comedy “The Playboy of the Western World,” a whole village falls in love with one — a young man who staggers through the pub door one evening and soon confesses that he has killed his father.
In the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey’s saucy and hilarious new production, the title character, Christopher Mahon, known as Christy, is played by an actor with the distinctive name Michael A. Newcomer. Mr. Newcomer captures Christy’s combination of puzzlement (why are people being so nice to him?) and growing confidence and charm, as he comes to accept their high opinion of him.
The young, attractive Widow Quin (Emma O’Donnell) puts her finger on his demeanor when she teases him, saying, “Don’t be letting on to be shy — a fine, gamy, treacherous lad the like of you.” Click here to read more.
Playboy of the Western World opens the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey's 2013 season
By RONNI REICH | The Star-Ledger
In J.M. Synge’s "The Playboy of the Western World," a crime that should be punished by hanging makes a young man the toast of a quiet 1907 Irish town.
At the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, director Paul Mullins aptly navigates the dark comedy. A surprising but effective choice to open the 2013 season, the show is not a straightforward crowd-pleaser but something subtler, with vibrant language and sharp-eyed observations about human nature.
The story begins when 21-year-old self-proclaimed dunce Christopher "Christy Mahon" slams a shovel down on his father’s head and wanders into the house of an attractive young girl, Pegeen Mike. In a town where the chief amusement is drinking — Pegeen’s father, Michael James Flaherty, is particularly enthusiastic about the refreshments at a wake — Christy’s bravery earns the respect of the men and the affections of the women. Chief among those is Pegeen, who is initially set to marry the whiny coward Shawn Keogh. Click here to read more.
‘Playboy of the Western World’ brings Irish Charm and Melancholy to Shakespeare Theatre stage
By LIZ KEILL | The Alternative Press
J. M. Synge’s “The Playboy of the Western World” is receiving a rare and welcome production at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, filled with secret pleasures and intriguing, if outlandish, tales to tell.
The play shifts from comedy to drama in the wink of an eye. It’s clear that these inhabitants along the coast of Mayor lead hardscrabble, confined lives. So when a young wanderer appears, saying he killed his father, that’s excitement indeed. Directed by Paul Mullins, this seamless production has well defined characters, most of who connive in one way or another to get their own way. Click here to read more.
'The Playboy of the Western World' The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey offers a classic Irish comedy
By BOB BROWN | Princeton Packet
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey opens its 51st season with one of the great classics of Irish theater, J.M. Synge’s serious comedy, The Playboy of the Western World. Synge, an Anglo-Irish Protestant from Dublin, was earnest in writing plays that probed the Irish peasant character, honestly and, in this case, humorously.
Although the play is often hilarious, its humor is commingled with a certain melancholy. Synge introduced his work to the press by saying it was “not a play with ‘a purpose’ in the modern sense of the word, but although parts of it are, or are meant to be, extravagant comedy, still a great deal more that is in it, and a great deal more that is behind it, is perfectly serious when looked at in a certain light.” Click here to read more.
A CurtainUp New Jersey Review:
The Playboy of the Western World
By SIMON SALTZMAN | CurtainUp
It's roundup time for all the playboys and playgirls to attend the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey's splendid production of John Millington Synge's rollicking and rueful The Playboy of the Western World. Even before I share my enthusiasm, I'd like to quote Russian dramatist Maxim Gorky who said this about the play: "the comical side passes quite naturally into the terrible, while the terrible becomes comical just as easily."
It is not surprising that this play, written in 1907, has retained its lofty place among the masterpieces of modern dramatic literature. The play's self-incriminating charms and its purposefully conflicted morals are attested to by director Paul Mullins. Mullins, who is in his twenty-second season with STNJ, keeps the faith mainly by not underlining that which meets our astonished eyes and pricks up our ears. This is, if you choose it to be, simply a provincial folk tale embroidered with some wry observations and raucous behavior about the making of heroes and reputations. Of course, the truth is that there is definitely much more for us to recognize and consider. And that's a good thing. Click here to read more.
By ROBERT L. DANIELS | Theater News Online
Walter Kerr, the late drama critic, cited The Playboy of the Western World as one of the four or five finest plays of the 20th century. It appears to be a most valid observation. The Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey opens its 51st season with the expressively fiery folk comedy by John Millington Synge. The play provoked considerable violence at its Dublin premiere in 1907, and again when it was initially presented in the United States for its realistic depiction of the manners and mores of Irish coastal life and its negative stereotypes.
The subtext reveals a peasant culture ground down by poverty and folksy superstition. As staged by Paul Mullins, the Garden State staging is a rousing, picturesque study of the gullible, simple inhabitants of a remote coastal village. Christy Mahon, played by Michael A. Newcomer, stumbles into a pub inhabited by local besotted villagers. It appears that the fugitive is on the run having murdered his ornery father. The tolerant local peasants, while somewhat awestruck by the vagabond intruder, are also oddly supportive of his wild behavior and charismatic appeal. Click here to read more.
The Playboy of the Western World: Charming Classic of Humorous Irish Storytelling
By BOB RENDELL | Talkin' Broadway
One hundred seven years ago when Dublin's Abbey Theatre produced the premiere of John Millington Synge's The Playboy of the Western World, Irish nationalists carried their anger out from the Abbey Theatre and rioted in the streets. In 1911, when Playboyreached New York, there were disturbances from hecklers in its opening night audience. Apparently, their ire was raised by the portrayal of the denizens of the county Mayo village as fools, and its satiric ridicule of masculine warriors who are widely regarded as heroes (Christy Mahon was played by a three foot tall comic in the original Abbey Theatre production). However, Playboy always has been regarded as a great landmark in Irish stage literature for both its take on the hero worship of brutish warriors and its robust humor. I doubt that any of today's theatergoers will have even an inkling that Synge's skewering of the hero worship of the macho male would ever have caused controversy. For today's theatergoer, however,The Playboy of the Western World remains a formidably funny and entertaining evening in the theatre. Click here to read more.
Synge’s “Playboy” is a Riot
By SHERRI RASE | QonStage
John Millington Synge’s brilliant satire “The Playboy of the Western World” is a mordant look at the power of public opinion. It is also extremely funny, wry, philosophical, and full of the pathos and humor that runs like a golden river through the Hibernian heart. Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s rendition is full of spark and sparkle, chemistry and emotion, and the zingers are often caught belatedly due to the different cadences of the Irish country dialect.
The action takes place in the then-present of 1907 in County Mayo. This is an Edwardian time when rich are rich and the poor are squalidly so. The King’s friends drink wine, while the Irish in the country drink “poteen,” their version of white lightning. Click here to read more.
“THE PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD” @ THE SHAKESPEARE THEATRE OF NEW JERSEY
By RUTH ROSS | NJ Arts Maven
When John Millington Synge's earthy comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, opened in Dublin in 1907, crowds rioted, outraged by what they saw as an insult to the Irish character, their speech, their customs. With its salty, yet poetic, language and outrageous characters, the play raises questions about identity, the role of romantic dreams in the presence of stifling poverty and the fickleness of human affections. With Synge, modern Irish drama was born.
Similar to their production last year of Trelawny of the Wells, the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey brings us an energetic and polished production of this little known, rarely seen play to inaugurate its 51st season. For a tad over two hours, we are transported to a pub ("shebeen") in a small village in County Mayo, on the wild west coast of Ireland—a land of potato farmers, fishermen, poverty and a paucity of excitement. Click here to read more.
Review: Magnificent 'Playboy of the Western World' at Shakespeare Theatre of NJ
By RICK BUSCIGLIO | Examiner.com
More than 100 years ago (1907) the Irish playwright J.M. Synge’s classic dark comedy "The Playboy of the Western World" premiered at Dublin's famous Abbey Theatre. Today it is his best known work, considered to be one of the great dramas of the 20th century. The play's initial reception in Dublin however was less than favorable. The theme of patricide, plus perceived attacks on the virtue of Irish womanhood, and male virility was being mocked led to riots in both the theatre and on the streets. This was, of course, the period of rising nationalism that lead to the final rebellion against British rule in 1920. Nationalist leaders considered the play "a vile and inhuman story told in the foulest language we have ever listened to from a public platform." The Irish Times's critic said "It is as if a mirror were held up to our faces and we found ourselves hideous. We fear to face the thing. We scream." Click here to read more.
Theatre review: ‘The Playboy of the Western World’ rocks
By RICHARD CARTER | Examiner.com
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s 51st season got underway Saturday, June 1, with glittering opening-night festivities that included champagne and light fare for ticket-holders and a chance to meet the actors. And what actors too!
Spectacular is just one way to describe the production of Irish playwright John Millington Synge’s dramatic comedy from 1907, The Playboy of the Western World. Director Paul Mullins, a veteran at The Shakespeare Theatre, led a taut cast in a steady flow of naturalistic action and at times dizzying dialogue, Brittany Vasta’s unit set leant authenticity to a believable Irish pub, and Candida Nichols costumed the cast in historically accurate attire. Click here to read more.
A Playboy Becomes A Man
By GWEN OREL | The Irish Examiner
Our playboy is all grown up. When Christy Mahon faces the audience and declares that he is master of all fights, he could have been giving the Bar Mitzvah speech, "Today I am a man."
When against all odds, as the people tried and failed to contain him, the poetic dreamer discovered that he is, against all odds, the brave hero he impersonated.
It's a fine theatrical moment, too, and an exhilarating climax to the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey's strong production, which opened this past Saturday and runs through Sunday, June 23. Click here to read more.
‘Playboy of the Western World’ lands raucously on the Shakepeare Theatre of NJ stage to open the new season
By JANINE M. TORSIELLO | Morris Beats
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey opened its 51st season this weekend by welcoming “The Playboy of the Western World,” to the Main Stage of the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre on the campus of Drew University in Madison. The production of this dark comedy by the Irish poet and playwright J.M. Synge is directed by Paul Mullins and runs through June 23. The play itself has a controversial history surrounding it. Written in 1907 and now considered a classic, its early performances were met with massive rioting over the colorful language and the stereotypes that were seen as an insult to the honor and dignity of the Irish.
The story is about a young stranger who wanders into a small town and confesses to having committed patricide. As he weaves a wild tale of the way he killed his father, the townspeople take up sides – either falling for this sad stranger and turning him into the heroic Playboy or seeking to bring him down in one way or another. Click here to read more.
Season opens with great classic of English theater
By THOM MOLYNEAUX | Pascack Valley Community Life
Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey has opened its 51st season with one of the great classics of English language theater, J.M. Synge's "The Playboy of the Western World."
The play, hailed as a "comic masterpiece," caused riots when it was first performed in Dublin in 1907. Irish Nationalists hated it because it didn't advance or support the cause. Moralists were offended by a young man talking of "...a drift of chosen females standing in their shifts..." ("shifts" meaning underwear) and some peaceful theater-goers were so incensed by its depiction of Irish men as violent creatures, that to make their point, they stormed the stage and attacked the actors. Click here to read more.
The Playboy of the Western World at The F. M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre
By PATRICK MALEY | Exeunt Magazine
No need to riot. The Playboy of the Western World is offering a lovely opening to the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s season.
Famous for its inauspicious Dublin opening, J.M. Synge’s 1907 comedy incited a chorus of hisses and angry riots from a scandalized Irish public upon its premiere. “This is not Irish life!” they cried in response to Synge’s poteen-drinking peasants who casually toss around sexual innuendo and revel in scandal. The characters were dubbed blackguards and their creator an evil genius. Neither was a compliment. Click here to read more.