Bill Geisslinger

Here at the edges of the Western World

Looking for meaning behind the brogue in Artists Rep's laughter-laden 'Playboy'

St. Patrick’s Day puzzles me. One day per year, Irish-Americans and nearly everyone else adopt — enthusiastically, often wildly — the otherwise derogatory ethnic stereotypes of the Irish. And no one thinks anything’s amiss. Unless the bar runs out of green beer.

Imagine, for comparison, Americans of all sorts spending Juneteenth, the annual commemoration of abolition, slugging malt liquor, chomping watermelon and running up to one another shouting “Kiss me, I’m black!”

Then again, there’s something liberating about being able to laugh at ourselves and to let others laugh right along.

Laughs come regularly in The Playboy of the Western World, a century-old Irish classic by John Millington Synge, currently playing at Artists Repertory Theatre. So does a kind of self-mockery elevated to celebration.

From left: Amy Newman, Allen Nause, Chris Murray, Isaac Lamb, Michael Mendelson, Jeb Berrier. Photo: Owen Carey

From left: Amy Newman, Allen Nause, Chris Murray, Isaac Lamb, Michael Mendelson, Jeb Berrier. Photo: Owen Carey

Playboy is the story of Christy Mahon, a poor farmhand who ducks into a pub in a County Mayo hamlet and, meek though he seems at first, sends a jolt throughout the community. The electric charge he brings is his story: that he has killed his father and is on the run from the police. The locals, apparently hungry for any kind of excitement, are thrilled to meet someone brave and brazen enough to commit parricide. And the more positive attention Christy gets, the more flair he puts into his tale, and the more he’s treated like a celebrity. The women fawn, and a competition for him develops between the publican’s tough-minded daughter, called Pegeen, and the sly Widow Quin.

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