The first thing you notice upon entering the City Lit Theater is how intimate the space feels. The lighting is warm and inviting and the seats are close enough to soak in all the details on set: a cozy tavern with a pot and fireplace to the left, close to the door; in the middle, a table, chairs, and benches, with a guitar and a banjo laying across them; to the right, the counter with cups, mugs, and a variety of bottles on the wall; a harp slightly off stage.
City Lit Theatre Infuses Life in Production with Music
As the house lights dim most of the cast barges into Flaherty tavern, picking up instruments and drinks, kicking off this production of John Millington Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World with their rendition of The Wild Rover:
I've been a wild rover for many a year
And I spent all me money on whiskey and beer
But now I'm returning with gold in great store
And I never will play the wild rover no more
The play tells the story of Christy Mahon. On the run after killing his father, Christy happens upon the tavern, impressing the locals with his vivid retelling of the story of how and why he murdered his father. The men admire his bravery and boldness while the women are enamored by his poetic diction and good looks. Among the women that fall in love with Christy is the barmaid, Pegeen, who is already engaged to someone else. And it’s Pegeen that Christy ultimately tries to pursue…
This unlikely scenario creates a comedy that is full of witty comebacks, elaborate storytelling, and a series of unexpected twists. While there are moments of seriousness, sincerity, and confrontation throughout, levity is always waiting around the corner.
All the characters were played to great effect, in this writer’s opinion: Christy is equally confident in his storytelling and fearful of any possible retribution. Widow Quin, another one of the village suitors, is brazenly coquettish when trying to seduce Christy. Christy’s father, Old Mahon, is crazed and bombastic with complete disregard for what the others might think of him (wait, I thought Christy had killed his father…)
The story itself is universal and could be set in a variety of settings, but what grounded this performance to early 1900s Ireland, in this writer’s opinion, was the specific Irish dialect and accent that was employed throughout the play. While it initially took some time for this writer to adjust to the dialect, it ultimately gave the performance an additional layer of depth and context that transports you both back in time and to a different place, allowing those moments of comedy and levity to speak for themselves.
The play ends with the same characters singing the same merry tune they had sung at the beginning, some relieved, others mourning that all the moments transpired are now behind them:
And it's no, nay, never
No, nay, never no more
Will I play the wild rover
No, never, no more
City Lit Theater’s production of The Playboy of the Western World is recommended to those seeking a comedy full of wit, tragedy, and unexpected twists.
July 1 - August 14, 2022
Sundays - 7:30pm
Mondays - 3pm
Saturdays - 7:30pm
City Lit Theater
1020 West Bryn Mawr Avenue
Chicago, IL, USA
Joshua Servantez (he/him, Christy Mahon), Adam Bitterman (he/him, Old Mahon), Brenda Wlazlo (she/her, Widow Quin), Michaela Voit (she/her, Pegeen Mike), Matt Rosin (he/him, Michael Flaherty), Madelyn Loehr (she/her, Sara Tansey), Greta Geiser (they/them, Honor Blake), Sophia Vitello (she/her, Susan Brady), Mary Margaret McCormack (she/her, Nelly McCormick), Brandon Beach (he/him, Shawn Keogh) , Kyle Burch, (he/him, Philly Cullen), Linsey Falls (he/him, Jimmy Farrell), and Richard Menges (he/him, Harpist).
By: John Millington Synge
Director: Brian Pastor
About the Author: Francisco Gallardo
Truly a jack of all trades (it’s boring being a master of one), you’ll find Francisco Gallardo playing the viola or guitar, preparing his next calligraphic work, coding up a helpful script, eating way too much sushi with the boys, or, more recently, trying his hand at writing and translation. Fortunately for him, “Hay más tiempo que vida”, so it’s only a matter of time before he finds something else to append to this list…