The yr was 1907, and the newish Abbey Theater, barely out of swaddlings, was debuting J.M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World. Because the story is informed, throughout the third act, the viewers erupted in protest on the unflattering depiction of Irishness. The efficiency shut down, adopted by per week of riots, and Synge was castigated for his unseemly vulgarity.
Quick ahead 100 years and Nigerian writer-director-scholar Bisi Adigun is commissioned by Arambe Productions to deliver his adaptation of Synge’s play to the stage. He collaborated with common Irish novelist Roddy Doyle, winner of the celebrated Booker Prize for fiction. Collectively they created “a brand new playboy,” reimagined as an asylum seeker from Nigeria, and their work premiered at The Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 2007. The collaborators provoke us to look at severe questions. What’s it that allows a person to enter and make his residence in a brand new nation? Is it the character of the person’s character or the story he tells?
Solas Nua has mounted the play on the Atlas Performing Arts Middle in Washington, DC, and doesn’t weigh the viewers down in polemics. The manufacturing is, at occasions, fun riot. I’m undecided who’s having extra enjoyable, we within the viewers or the tight ensemble on stage.
Director Shanara Gabrielle and Scenic Designer Nadir Bey have made essentially the most of restricted quarters by inserting the motion between two banks of chairs. On this “alley” of a enjoying area, an outfitted Irish pub immerses the viewers within the goings-on. At one finish is a door designating the pub’s entrance nevertheless it additionally stands on the entrance of the theater in order that characters and viewers latecomers overlap and spill in collectively, including to the casual gaiety of the night.
The solid of characters is broadly etched, and all of them present us the rough-and-tumble, less-than-heroic sides of human nature. Rebecca Ballinger is Pegeen, supervisor of the pub, which additionally fronts a petty-theft operation headed by her “Da,” Michael. Ballinger depicts the restlessness and anger of a younger girl trapped in a life not of her selecting.
Her character captures our sympathies as she longs for one thing aside from this household of gang hoodlums and a greasy-haired, chinless coward of a fiancé. Ballinger is in flip careless and rough-tongued then confused and weak and manages to hold off the largest arc within the drama.
Ian Armstrong is the “Da,” and he and his two sidekicks, performed by Ryan Tumulty and Matthew Pauli, deliver among the most multifaceted and marvelous interactions of the night. Armstrong blusters and rages, however you may see, simply in the way in which he slings his fenced items in a panic to the others, that he’s a extra petty than severe operator. Pauli performs Philly, most likely the neatest of the three in simply the way in which he’s all the time watching. He’s the primary to determine the newcomer’s story and is each essentially the most sympathetic and probably most deadly. Tumulty performs Jimmy, a follower, who’s all the time behind, virtually all the time befuddled, mouth agape, and slack-jawed silly. He provides a hundred percent in each second. These three clowns are endlessly fascinating to observe for the element of their work as actors.
The refrain of three females, who change into groupies to the brand new “playboy” on the town, are by turns foolish, shrill, and aggressive. Rachel Lawhead, Danielle Gallo, and Erin Denman are etched in a method extra situational comedy than honest-to-god multidimensional characters.
James Lacey, a gifted British-Paraguayan actor, joins the Solas Nua solid as Sean, the lackluster, luckless fiancé. He manages to fireside up within the viewers each merciless ridiculing laughter on the fellow and complete sympathy for such a loser multi function.
Central to the entire dramatic story, and round whom everybody else will get lit up attempting to get into his head, is Christy. Everybody initiatives onto the stranger what they need: a brand new story and object of their want. Jamil Joseph takes on the archetypal function and shows each bodily versatility and the emotional modifications wanted to tug off the character’s chameleon nature. Joseph convinces us as his character convinces himself that he has the cojones to succeed at patricide and concurrently conquer all the ladies on the town. Then, in a break up second, the veil falls, and he appears pathetic and generally heartbreaking.
The self-reveal moments are additionally the place the new-coined story of a brand new immigrant involves the fore, enlarging the story. What are the pressures on somebody who needs to ingratiate himself into a brand new tradition? To what lengths will an individual go to be revered and built-in into an unfamiliar group? And the way does one learn or misinterpret the cues to slot in?
The character of Christopher’s father, Malomo (within the authentic play Mahon), is performed by JJ Johnson, and he serves as an anchor each emotionally and culturally for “the playboy.”
Johnson embodies an aged gentleman of distinction and nice character. He has come to fetch his son again residence. Regardless of the issues earlier than the play’s motion between father and son, Johnson makes us really feel compassion for this man and perceive his lengthy journey and the ends he would go to save lots of his son from a lost-boy life.
Widow Quin in Synge’s authentic play was a pressure of nature and, to my thoughts, one of many nice comedian roles in Twentieth-century drama. The recasting of her as a foolish, randy outdated girl gave me some unease. Actress Jessica Lefkow had moments the place she pulled off the comedy, however the character by no means drew our sympathy, whether or not within the writing or performing decisions, and eventually the widow got here throughout as lower than the sum of the components.
Nonetheless, Solas Nua has given us one other grand play in its mission of drawing completely from up to date Irish drama. Their productions are all the time sensible, considerate, and genuinely entertaining. Because of the sensibilities of Producer and Creative Director Rex Daugherty, the ensemble performing tends to be top-notch. (To guage the way in which they work up a present in true collaboration, simply have a look at the format of “Meet the Artists” bios: following the 2 writers, everybody, whether or not on or behind the scenes, is listed alphabetically.) The play reminds us we’re a small world in spite of everything, and migration is a worldwide disaster.
Operating Time: Two hours with one intermission.
The Playboy of the Western World runs via November 20, 2022, introduced by Solas Nua performing in Lab II at The Atlas Performing Arts Middle, 1333 H Road NE, Washington, DC. For the schedule and to buy tickets ($5–$45), go on-line or contact the Field Workplace at (202) 399-7993 or email@example.com from 11 AM – 5 PM Monday via Friday, or two hours previous to a efficiency.
This system for The Playboy of the Western World is on-line right here.
COVID Security: All patrons are required to be masked whereas inside efficiency areas. The usage of N95 masks is inspired. Masks could also be briefly eliminated when actively consuming or consuming in designated areas. The whole Atlas Performing Arts Middle COVID Well being and Security Coverage is right here.
The Playboy of the Western World
Written by Bisi Adigun and Roddy Doyle (Tailored from J.M. Synge)
Directed by Shanara Gabrielle
Jamil Joseph (Christopher), Rebecca Ballinger (Pegeen), James Carlos Lacey (Sean), Ian Armstrong (Michael), Jessica Lefkow (Widow Quinn), Ryan Tumulty (Jimmy), Matthew Pauli (Philly), Erin Denman (Sarah), Danielle Gallo (Honor), Rachel Lawhead (Susan), and JJ Johnson (Malomo)
Nadir Bey (scenic design), Danielle Preston (costume design), Delaney Bray (sound design), Sarah Tundermann (lighting design), Dominic DeSalvio (affiliate lighting design), Delaney Bray (sound design), Sierra Younger (battle and intimacy choreography), Sulmane Maigadi (Cultural marketing consultant), Jonathan Holmes (affiliate director), Anderson Wells (affiliate director), Regina Vitale (stage supervisor), Mary Elizabeth Doebel (assistant stage supervisor), Jessica Trementozzi (assistant scenic design), Charlotte La Nasa (assistant producer/manufacturing supervisor), Dean Leong (grasp electrician), and Rex Daugherty (producer/dialect coach)
Solas Nua to stage U.S. premiere of latest ‘Playboy of the Western World’
(information story, October 21, 2022)