September 21st, 2017 by Alexis Wiggins

Staging “The Playboy of the Western World”

In the end of “The Playboy of the Western World” Act 1 there is a particularly funny part that contradicts all that the audience has learned about Christy. We have been led to assume that he is is a dangerous murderer who has killed his own father. He and Pegeen are in a conversation about how strong and brave Christy is when someone knocks on the door. Christy is clearly terrified by the knock and he is described as “clinging to Pegeen” and crying aloud about all the scary things that could be at the door. If I were to stage this play I would try to make this part particularly humorous. I would direct Christy and Pegeen to be deep in talk, and have him seem very boastful and masculine when he’s talking to her before the knock on the door. The moment there is a knock, I would direct him to act extremely scared, almost like a child. He would hide behind Pegeen, peek around her and would say his line almost neurotically while trembling and shaking. He would continue to be terrified until he saw who it was, when he would physically relax. Over all I would make this part very over done not only to accentuate the comedy, but to make plane to the audience that Christy is not as brave as he says he is.

September 21st, 2017 by Noah Fusco

Playing for Laffs: Pegeen’s Preparatory Performance

As Professor of Theatre Todd Wronski always sez, “The only bad decision is no decision.”

If staging The Playboy of the Western World (or any play) as a comedy, one may have the initial response to look for what’s funny, and stage those as funny, and let the rest sit as one’s initial reaction determined it. The other day in class, as we discussed the opening of Playboy, there was no indication to suggest that it was in any way funny. However, I would argue that from the very beginning, comedy can be brought out to best highlight what to expect.

Pegeen is described as a “wild-looking but fine girl,” (99)which begs the question, what does “wild-looking” mean, and can we get a little joviality out of her appearance? Can we inspire some Falstaffian ruggedness from her? (My mind instantly thinks Anne Baxter in Swamp Water, where she plays a “wild-looking but fine girl”, in my opinion.)

Rather than a sentimental preciousness about Pegeen’s opening lines (as we suggested in class), they can be re-envisioned as a girl both excited and out of her depth. The first line, enunciated thusly:

Pegeen [hunched over, intensely]: Six yards of . . . stuff . . . for to make a [passionately] yellow gown! A pair of lace boots—with lengthy heels on them a-and . . . brassy eyes! [pauses, thinking] A hat is suited for a wedding-day [proudly, without humor, nods at her declaration] A fine tooth comb. [stops writing, says excitedly to herself/audience, shifting into daydream; as she speaks the line, her voice rises in excitement] To be sent with three barrels of porter in Jimmy Farrell’s creel cart on the evening of the coming Fair [realizes she needs to write it down, hurriedly scribbles to catch up as she finishes the sentence aloud] to Mister Michael James Flaherty. [suddenly calm, controlled, ladylike again] With the best compliments of this season: Margaret Flaherty.

I personally adore comedy that revolves around internal tension. Staging Pegeen as I notated shifts the nature of the information from purely expositional to now the conflict between her aspirations for a proper wedding, and the anarchic drive for personal pleasure (always have the Marxes on my mind), which I find greatly amusing, even funny if done just right.

September 21st, 2017 by olearyc

Humor in Playboy of the Western World

Synge’s Playboy of The Western World begins with satirical commentary about how typical plays with love stories turn out. Peegan is categorizing a list of unusual wedding items for a woman of a lower socioeconomic status which brings out the initial satirical tone. She mentions how she intends to buy many yards of yellow fabric for her gown. In addition, she includes on her list “A pair of lace boots with lengthy heels” (1-2). Shortly after, Shawn enters the scene I instantly found the relationship between Shawn and Peegan to be comical. Peegan is alone in the sheebeen and hypothetically the couple could be alone for the night. Whereas you normally would see a Male character be more forward, Shawn is afraid of being with Peegan when a third party is not around, nor does he want to sin before they are married. I found similarities between Shawn and Peegan’s dynamic and their embodiment of reverse gender roles to Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Both women can have a sassy, synod, and at times, aggressive tone. Additionally, they both manage to make the male character feel emasculated. Lady Macbeth tries to convince Macbeth to kill the king, and Peegan wants Shawn to stay with her to protect her from the unknown that is outside, but both men are fearful. I found the parenthesis before a character’s line explaining the tone to be useful when reading this play. The notation helps the reader see how you are supposed to interpret the dialogue. After Peegan expresses how Shawn shouldn’t leave her alone until morning, Shawn’s response (with awkward humor) noted in the book, is that “ If it is, when were wedded in a short while you’ll have no call to complain, for I’ve little will to be waking off to wakes or weddings in the darkness of the night.” Peegan responds with rather scornful, good humor “You’re making mighty sure Shaneen that I’ll wed you now.” Although I did find Peegan’s banter to be comical, I do believe the play could you some more conspicuous, outlandish comic relief, similar to the scene with the drunk towards the end of the play Macbeth. Although Playboy of the Western World is intended to be a comedy and does not need the same comic relief as a tragedy, I think it would be both funny and useful if Peegan made a reference to Macbeth saying “Un-sex me here” in a light-hearded sarcastic tone, to alert the audience early on of this humorous relationship between two characters where there is not as much romance. Further, that there is this strong sense of reverse gender roles.

September 21st, 2017 by Becca Stout

Christy the Monster

One moment in the play that would have made me laugh if staged well is Pegeen and Shawn’s exchange when he suddenly changes his mind and decides to stay just to have Pegeen shut the door and lock him out. The sarcastic humor occurs in Pegeen’s line when she claims there is now no danger, and because Shawn would not stay before, he might as well not stay now (Synge 348-349). However, there is danger in that Christy, a man who killed his own father, is staying with her alone.

To make the audience laugh, I would stage this with Shawn’s character being very scrawny and shorter than Pegeen and Christy’s character being a tall, tattooed, and muscled man with monster-like qualities. Shawn would walk out of the door, turn around to say goodbye, but seeing Christy over Pegeen’s shoulder give a little wave, would quake with fear as he stutteringly offers to stay. Christy would smile with rows of shark teeth as Pegeen sarcastically comments about Shawn fearing the Father. Shawn’s response that staying would cause no harm would be said while shuddering in fright and backing slowly toward the door as he belatedly tries to prove to Pegeen he can be strong. When Pegeen obliviously claims she is in no danger, Christy would start to get up out of his chair. They would say the last few lines of the moment and Pegeen would slam the door on an already fleeing Shawn, turn around, and smile to Christy.

September 21st, 2017 by mooree

Synge’s Humor in Act 2: Christy- Murderer or Celebrity?

At the beginning of Act 2 on page 116 starting at line 60 to line 78, the village girls, Sara and Susan, meet Christy for the first time after hearing word of his crime in town. This meeting is humorous to me because after asking Christy if he is the man who killed his father and he replies yes, they greet him with more than open arms. Sara even gives him “a thousand welcomes”, showing how these women are not even slightly frightened in the presence of a murderer. The women even offer him more food since they have heard of his “long journey”. Susan says, “And I run up with a pat of butter, for it’d be a poor thing to have you eating your spuds dry, and you after running a great way since you did destroy your da.” (Lines 69-71) The fact that these village women are greeting a criminal in this way is extremely ridiculous and therefore funny. To make this scene even more comical, I imagine that when Sara is asking, “is it you’s the man killed his father” that Christy is cowering and looking very afraid, as if he is about to run and hide. Then once the women welcome him openly, his stature visibly grows and he puffs his chest out in order to woo these ladies. He also would recite his lines past this point in a “tough and proud” manner. I imagine these women are impressed with Christy and are offering him cake and butter for his potatoes as if he is a famous hero who has just succeeded in battle, with long drawn out voices and batting their eyelashes at him. The women would be starstruck by Christy.

September 21st, 2017 by pinedaj

The Playboy of the Telenovela World

When the group of women first encounter Christy at the beginning of Act II, they enter with a predisposed fascination rooted in the community gossip about Christy murdering his father. This particular scene has great comedic potential for the stage because of the many bodies gravitating toward and centering all their attention on Christy.

What struck me about this scene was that it evokes a Cinderella-esque parallel to the stepsisters’ ostentatious obsession with the princea parallel in which the secondary female characters fight for the attention of the key male protagonist, despite his apparent lack of interest. This has become a sort of standard setup that signals a tendency to ridicule the secondary female characters and creates the humor in the scene.

In my own staging of this play, I’d adapt it to incorporate the over-dramatic telenovela element by casting telenovela star Jaime Camil as Christy due to his pompous, exaggerated acting style. His first line responds to Sara’s question about his identity:  “I am, God help me,” which I would love to see done in his extravagant tone, and carried on throughout (116).  The women’s lines can be especially heightened for comedic purposes through  exaggeration in the actors’ tone. In particular, I would love for Sara’s character to take on the telenovela trope of the sly female villain-temptress, as with her attempts to win Christy over: “Pegeen’s ducks is no use, but these are the real rich sort. Hold out your hand and you’ll see it’s no lie I’m telling you,” (116).

September 21st, 2017 by hange

Dining and Dishing with Widow Quin

Since the introduction of Widow Quin, the drama Christy brought to the play becomes more enjoyable and humorous. When Christy first tells the people at the shebeen that he killed his father, the attempt from Michael, Shawn, and Pegeen to get the details from Christy fell flat because of the dry humor and “blank amusement” in their tone (Synge 105, I.259). However, Widow Quin brought drama and comedy to Christy’s murder when she relates their situations. She jokes and flirts with Christy in front of a disgruntled Pegeen to connect with him, if anything for the juicy details. The cougar vibes coming off of Widow Quin at this moment changes the gossip game with Christy in the shebeen since she is a widow who “has buried her children and destroyed her man is a wiser comrade for a young lad” (I.523-525).

Widow Quin makes Christy’s murder sexy because of her stage-directed teasing and flirtations with him. In Act 2, she arranges an impromptu gossip session. She and Christy, along with other girls, dish out tea, food, and details about why and how Christy killed his father (Synge 117-118). She nonchalantly eats chicken while asking Christy prompting questions about his motivations (was it for money or for a girl?). The responses to her questions are full of ridiculous dialogue and scenarios. After stirring up the drama, Widow Quin ends that gossip session to have words to later dish out to the not-dead father of Christy, Old Mahon (gasp!) – in the same act!

September 21st, 2017 by watsono

Colin Firth as Christy (even though he’s British)

By the end of Act I and opening scene of Act II, Christy is the intrigue of the entire village – attracting more attention to himself than ever before because he murdered his father. The final line of Act One, ” …two fine women fighting for the likes of me – till I’m thinking this night wasn’t I a foolish fellow not to kill my father in the years gone by”, captures a kind of dark humor that propels the plot forward and appeals to the villagers’ desire for drama as well as this audience, who similarly seeks entertainment (114).

If I directed my own production of Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World, I would seek out Colin Firth to play the role of Christy. I imagine Christy as a little disheveled and uncomfortable/nervous around women because he is not used to so much attention (similar to the kind of role Colin Firth usually plays). However, I also think he would be a fitting actor for this role because he can pull off the allure too.

But, would it be too problematic to cast a British actor in a characteristically Irish performance?

September 21st, 2017 by winslowo

Synge’s Humor Envelops Masculinity and Religion.

In Act I of J.M Synge’s Playboy of the Western World, the character Shawn appears as an archetypal wimp willing to make excuses that expose his “flaws” as a strong, masculine man.  Furthermore, Synge plays on the overwhelming influence and existence of the Catholic Church in Ireland in order to emphasize how Shawn tries to exploit widely accepted societal beliefs for his own benefit.  After Pegeen’s father, Michael, walks into the scene with his two companions, this cowardly side of Shawn comes out in full. Michael responds to his daughter’s worries of walking home alone in the dark and mysterious night by saying, “Let Shawn Keogh stop along with you.” (113-114).  Immediately Shawn responds saying that he “would” but then retorts, “I’m afraid of Father Reilly, and what at all would the holy father and the Cardinals of Rome be saying if they heard I did the like of that?” (117-118).  This is hilarious because not only does it show Shawn’s trepidation in a scenario where we might expect him to try and act macho and in charge, but it also shows how important the church is in this society.  He seems to think that if he justifies his actions using religion it will be an acceptable excuse, but instead it makes him look absurd.  Why would the Pope and the Cardinals pay any attention to a couple in a small Irish town walking home together? He must be insinuating that this would be too much intimate contact before marriage.  It is an absurd fear that is covering up his fear of the night.

September 21st, 2017 by Angst Bear

Playboy of the Western World

[Note: this was published at 12:54pm and completed at 1:18pm. I do not know why WordPress says it was published at 4:54pm and republished at 5:18pm.]

I had quite a laugh in my reading of J.M. Synge’s Playboy Of The Western World, mainly when Shawn loses his coat from Father Michael’s grip. This is mainly due to the more movement and slapstick-based quality of the humor here, which succeeds in characterizing Shawn. Shawn strikes me as a perfect nebbish, a yiddish word for a character that is pitiful, timid, and submissive. In terms of staging the play, I could picture a modern sit-com take on Playboy Of The Western World. The Story would be set in a diner reminiscent of Seinfeld or the bar of  Cheers. Pageen, played by a young Julia Louis-Dreyfus, would open in the diner (owned by her father) writing her letter. It would be great to see her interact with Shawn, played by Jason Alexander channeling the character of Costanza. Throughout, there would be a laugh track, such as during the more joking sections such as Act I, lines 30-34. Christopher would enter to audience applause like he’s Ray Romano. Then again, Michael could also be a good Sam Malone-like or Fonzie-like character. My only issue is I have not decided what kind of character Michael would play. In sitcoms, most fathers are more strict than Michael, making him a bit harder to cast. if we can twist sitcom to include animated series, perhaps Homer from The Simpsons?  What kind of sitcom character do you think Michael would fit?                                                                                                                                                        

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