Funny how plays come in and out of fashion. Several years back, it seemed everybody was producing John Millington Synge's comedy/drama The Playboy of the Western World ... and then it disappeared from local stages.
Point Park University's Conservatory Theatre Company leaps in to fill the void with a new student production, directed by Kim Martin.
In a remote backwater in Ireland, we find ourselves in the village public house, run by Michael Flaherty and his daughter Pegeen. In the way of these things, Pegeen is young and beautiful, pining for the love she doesn't feel from her would-be finance, the nerdy Shawn Keogh. Cue a light change as the door bursts open and in rushes Christy Mahon, a man on the run because he just killed his father.
He's hot, he's dangerous, he's single ... and soon the village women are flocking around, in love with the swashbuckling story he relishes telling.
The plot, as they say, thickens and soon Synge's piling incident on top of event until — in a not altogether believable way — he draws it all to a close.
There's a lot to like about Playboy, its antic good humor and the slight melancholy perfuming the work. But there's a musty quaintness to it as well. It doesn't reach high enough to achieve "classic" status and is, perhaps, too dated to be relevant.
So Martin — and bless her for it! — directs with the two elements essential for a successful production: She's assembled a top-flight cast of actors willing to fling themselves into every corner of Synge's loopiness, and she directs the play like an addict chasing a fix. The propulsion she brings, while never ignoring nuance, helps land this script in the most entertaining way.
Nik Duggan plays Christy with just about as much charm as could be humanly possible, and his scenes with Amanda Lee Hawkins — in a fully realized performance as Pegeen — are tender and heartfelt. We know they're star-crossed, but we can't help rooting for them any less because of that.
Jenny Lester and Ashton Guthrie provide deeper shadings in supporting roles, and Corwin Stoddard's hangdog Shawn brings humanity and warmth as well.