On Stage At Southern Rep Theatre
by John Perkins
New Orleans - In 1994, actor Michael Cahill turned producer to stage the John Millington Synge Irish classic, The Playboy Of The Western World. As we look back in our calendar, this was, unfortunately, one of the plays we missed seeing in 1994, so we were happy to see Cahill reunite with director Perry Martin to stage the play once again, this time at the Southern Repertory Theatre in Canal Place.
With a splendid array of accents to add credibility to the story, director Martin with Cahill in the lead role of Christy Mahon has staged an excellent play that clearly points up the dark comedy and rustic charm of the story.
The Playboy Of The Western World was first staged in 1907 and has been seen on stages throughout the world since then. It is not a play that is widely done by community theatres perhaps because it is not an easily understood piece for those unfamiliar with Irish humor. But this satirization of hero worship is a rich tapestry that is very rewarding for audiences when they do get the chance to see it.
Set in the early years of the 20th century, the setting is an Irish pub in County Mayo. The public house is run by Pegeen Flaherty a young lass about to be betrothed to a young man in the town, Shawn Keogh. Before that engagement can be announced, however, onto the scene comes a handsome young man by the name of Christy Mahon who claims to be running from the law because he has just killed his father. Pegeen takes him in and offers him bed and board for the night and it is quite evident that she is taken with him.
It soon becomes apparent that she is not the only one who looks with loving eyes on this stranger. As the news of his arrival spreads throughout this small town, the eligible females soon begin to arrive to see and get to know this young man with the crimson past. Among them is one widow Quin who makes it clear that she is going to do battle with Pegeen for the attention of this young man.
Mahon is a hero in everyone's eyes because of the deed he says he has committed. It's a form of hero worship that Christy begins to enjoy. He gets caught up in the myth of it all and bathes in the glory of the moment until his credibility is lost when his father shows up with nothing more to show for his injuries than a bandaged pate caused by Christy's swinging the spade in his direction during an argument. Christy tries hard to keep his legend alive over the remainder of the story with some surprising results.
Cahill needs no introduction to theatre goers of the area and in Playboy he is at his best as he portrays the enigmatic Christy with great credibility. As Cahill brings the character to life the viewer wonders whether Christy is really proud of the deed he boasts of or whether he is simply a frightened individual who is putting up a brave front. Some elements of both are indicated with Cahill's performance.
Pegeen Flaherty is being portrayed by Kimberly Patterson and she delivers a solid performance she brings the young lass into sharp focus.
The Widow Quin, clearly past any mourning period, gets a splendid interpretation from Janet Shea who puts some moxie into the character especially when dealing with Pegeen making it apparent that there is no love lost between them.
In the role of Christy's father, Old Mahon, is Doug Mundy who does a fine job with the role. Shawn Keogh, the young man to whom Pegeen is to be betrothed, is nicely played by Robert M. Montgomery while Pegeen's brother Michael James Flaherty and his cronies are played by Randy Cheramie, Bob Scully (Jimmy Farrell) and Ralph Lister (Philly Cullen).
The young ladies of the village who vie for the attention of their newfound hero, are Kara Hadigan (Sara Tansey), Amy Alvarez (Susan Brady), Robin A. Werner (Honor Blake), and Marnie Thompson (Nelly Cahill). All add to the telling of this tale and the enjoyment of the evening for the audience.
Completing the cast is Michael P. Sullivan who makes his presence known in a convincing manner as the Bellman, a sort of town crier who walks through the village proclaiming the latest news.
Stephen G. Thurber has designed the excellent set which represents the run down public house of the tale. His design was based on a concept by Charles Truscott. Thurber has also provided the design for the lighting and the sound. The costuming, which is well done, is the design of Anne Bendernagel. Fight choreography was provided by Robert M. Montgomery, and Marnie Thompson provided the background music on her fiddle.
An added attraction for this production is the pre-show entertainment which features many of the area's top talents of the Irish culture, including Celtic Balladeer Danny O'Flaherty, Betsy McGovern of the Poor Clares, the McTeggart Irish Dancers of New Orleans, The New Orleans School of Irish Dance, the Crossroad Ceili Band, Bagpipers Kevin Gilheany and Erin Seidemann, and fiddler Marnie Thompson.
The Playboy Of The Western World is excellent theatre and deserves to be seen. It runs through November 8 at Southern Repertory Theatre in Canal Place.
Young Lovers - Kimberly Patterson, left, and Michael Cahill portray Pegeen Flaherty and Christy Mahon, respectively, who become the center of the love interest in the Beefield Production of The Playboy Of The Western World, which is now on stage at Southern Repertory Theatre.
Hero Worship - The young women of the village come to meet their newfound hero, Christy Mahon, who is reputed to have killed his father. From left, Marnie Thompson, Robin Werner, Kara Hadigan, Michael Cahill, Janet Shea, and Amy Alvarez. The action is from The Playboy Of The Western World now at Southern Repertory Theatre, which is being directed by Perry Martin.