DAILY VARIETY – March 22, 1996
Playboy of the Western World
This exceptionally strong production of “The Playboy of the Western World” shows why the play is a classic:
LEGIT REVIEWS: Playboy of the Western World This exceptionally strong production of “The Playboy of the Western World” shows why the play is a classic: well rendered characters strike at a part of the human condition in a moving and ironic way. Director Marilyn Fox guides the well-chosen cast through the work by J. M. Synge, the first great modern Irish playwright.
The show is also the first for the realigned Pacific Resident Theatre Ensemble since its Culver City theatre was razed and artistic director Stephanie Shroyer left to start a new theatre with director Debbie Devine and others. Now under the artistic directio of Fox, PRTE is back, temporarily in its original site in Venice with a production that reminds people how professional the company is.
A young, distraught potato farmer, Christy Mahon (Gregory Vignolle) arrives in a small Irish village, admitting to having just killed his bullying father with a shover. Everyone, pub owner (Orson Bean) included, admires the stranger and Christy quickly gains the romantic eye of Widow Quin (Alley Mills) and several young women (Carolyn Palmer, Paola Eisman, Annie Bogock, Kim Murphy). Christy, however is most interested in the pub owner’s 20-year old daughter Pageen Mike (Reamy Hall).
Pageen Mike’s wimpy cousin Shawn (Stuart W. Howard) who has been planning to marry Pegeen Mike and is clearly jealous of Christy, tries to entice the man to leave to no avail. When Christy’s father (Robert Evan Collins) arrives, not murdered afterall, turmoil ensues.
Fox keeps the action and pacing lively, pulling the audience into Synge’s sardonic view of hero worship.
As Christy, Vignolle creates a simple soul who grows into the hero that the townfolk see. Bean, who has become one of the finest stage actors in this city, creates a vivid pub owner, Michael James, who pushes hard to get his daughter to marry Shawn.
Mills as Widow Quin brings lustiness and command to the situation that will make anyone forget she played the retiring mom on “The Wonder Years”.
The two-story set, designed by Deena Lynn Mullen lends a sense of space to the otherwise narrow theater; the set and Audrey Eisner’s costume design clearly evoke the town’s poverty and turn of the century time period.
Peter Stenshoel’s sound design captures well the sounds outside the pub. The light design by Debra Garcia Lockwood reinforces the all-around top quality of the production.