Theater Review:

A Noise Within does it again

May 05, 2010|By James Petrillo

It strikes you only a few minutes into “The Playboy of the Western World” how absolutely authentic the presentation feels. The set, the costumes, the characters, the language, all of them working in harmony to quickly transport the audience like a time machine to early 19th-century Ireland.

After seeing a few shows at A Noise Within over the past year, I realize now that authenticity is their calling card. “Noises Off” plunged you into the ultra-realistic backstage drama of British theater. “Awake and Sing!” made you feel like a fly on the wall of a crowded Brooklyn apartment in 1935. Now John Millington Synge’s 1907 masterpiece is brought to vibrant life by paying slavish devotion to its beautiful Irish dialect.

Director Geoff Elliott even had to insert a last-minute message in the program about not getting scared off by the printed glossary of unfamiliar terms and names used throughout the play. He recommends just letting the dialogue wash over you and understanding will eventually follow. Good advice. I thought the whole experience felt like being dropped smack dab in the middle of the stage, and my eyes were riveted to the action until a saggy ending dulled the intensity.


“The Playboy of the Western World” takes place entirely inside a tavern near a village on the coast of County Mayo, Ireland, at the dawn of the 20th century. Christopher Mahon (Michael A. Newcomer) is a desperate young man running away from his farm, claiming he killed his abusive father.

When the locals seem far more interested in vicariously enjoying his romantic tale of adventure than in condemning the immorality of his murderous deed, Christopher decides to stay in town.

He also captures the eye of barmaid Pegeen Mike (Lindsay Gould), who abandons plans to marry Shawn (Brian Hostenske) and attaches herself to this mysterious “playboy” from a “western” province.

Because of the novelty of his exploits and the skill in which he tells his own story, Christopher becomes something of a town hero. Many other women also become attracted to him, including the Widow Quin (Jill Hill).

The rest of the play’s twists should be discovered in person, but I’ll let a line from the play relay its main message: “There’s a great gap between a gallant story and a dirty deed.”

Stephen Gifford’s scenic design is nearly perfect. The public house where everything goes down is exquisitely rendered.

Costumes by Soojin Lee blend seamlessly into the setting, with important contributions by makeup artist Monica Lisa Sabedra. The wigs Sabedra uses are just one more important touch adding overall believability to the production.

Special mention should be made of dialect coach Nike Doukas.

His obvious dedication to the Irish language comes through every time an actor speaks, whether it’s Gould enunciating fluidly or local Philly Cullen (William Dennis Hunt) growling fluently.

The attention to detail is impeccable.

A true team effort behind the scenes has made “The Playboy of the Western World” as truthful a depiction of a time and place than one could ever hope for in live theater.

The exceptional mood and architecture of the set leaves the actors an elegant canvas on which to display their talents.

It’s the high point of A Noise Within’s already splendid repertory season.

About the writer JAMES PETRILLO is an actor and screenwriter from Los Angeles.

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