Brad's Reviews > The Playboy of the Western World

The Playboy of the Western World by J.M. Synge
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's review
Apr 11, 2009

liked it
bookshelves: drama, irish-lit, notorious, north-atlantic
Read 3 times. Last read October 20, 2003.

I've never been able to decide if Playboy of the Western World is outdated, prescient or timely. If it is timely then I think it would have to be timeless.

Christy Mahon comes to Flaherty's Pub and charms the punters and barmaid Pegeen Mike (the daughter of owner Mike Flaherty) with the story of how he killed his father. Christy can tell a tale, so he charms the pants off the regulars (figuratively) and Pegeen (damn near literally).

But Christy's Da shows up alive, having only been wounded by his son, and all those fooled by Christy's story turn on him. Christy's answer, the only way he figures he can get his new friends back and keep Pegeen's love, is to finish the job on his Da, so he gives it a whirl. The attempt on Old Mahon is convincing enough to put Christy's neck in a noose because none of Flaherty's patrons want to get in trouble for aiding and abetting Christy in a patricide (I love that word). Just when it looks like Christy's going to die, however, Old Mahon, with as many lives as Rasputin, absurdly stumbles to his feet and saves his son.

So, of course, father and son take off to see the world together, and Pegeen is left to lament the one she let get away.

John Millington Synge's play is generally considered one of the Irish greats, even Yeats was a fan, and I certainly appreciate it in dribs and drabs, but it's a bit too ridiculous to really make me a firm fan. I love much of Christy's dialogue, I think the play's violence works (even if Old Mahon's imperviousness doesn't), and the Irishness of this very Irish play is a huge plus, but I've never really felt a spark when I've read this play. And that spark didn't appear when I saw it on stage either. I find the pacing a bit trying because large portions of Synge's play simply bore me.

It's all subjective, I suppose, but I'd sure love to see a strong staging of Playboy of the Western World. Maybe that would change my mind.
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