Synge, Synge, Synge

Six plays by one author in eight and a half hours? It might get anybody's Irish up.

If Playboy showed Hynes as a director of strong, complex vision, some of the other plays showed her discomfitingly willing to settle for the obvious. The day's opener, Riders to the Sea, a work grim enough not to need any added grimness, was played as unrelieved lament from beginning to end, with no hope and no tension among the characters to give its crushing final scene full tragic weight. The Tinker's Wedding, a two-scene farce that always runs the danger of seeming hokey, was staged in a look-how-funny-I-am manner that only let up when Marie Mullen and Eamon Morrissey, as the tinker's brash mother and the nervous priest caught in the family's squabble, cut through the self-consciousness with a little clean reality. And even they had to struggle, as the disillusioned blind couple in Well of the Saints, to make sense of a production in which the rural peasantry behaved like Wal-Mart employees at an office party. They got their recompense after dinner, when Mullen made a deliciously forthright Widow Quin, and Morrissey a vividly crusty Old Mahon.

Awake and Synge: Reeves (third from left) nad Monaghan in The Playboy of the Western World.
Keith Pattison
Awake and Synge: Reeves (third from left) nad Monaghan in The Playboy of the Western World.


DruidSynge: The Plays of John Millington Synge
Gerald W. Lynch Theater
John Jay College
899 Tenth Avenue

Mullen was flummoxed again, though, by Hynes's treatment of Deirdre of the Sorrows, which ends the day. Different from the earlier plays in tone, though not dissimilar in diction, Deirdre is Synge's attempt at a Yeatsian tale from pre-Christian Irish myth, its jealous lover and crafty, tyrannical husband suggesting a hieratic rework of Shadow of the Glen. Inexplicably, Hynes chose to play this ultra-Celtic piece in a brogue-free mid-Atlantic speech that destroyed all connection with the flavorsome accents of the previous seven hours, and with a stiff solemnity that rubbed the liveliness out of Synge's easy-flowing dialogue. Some of the younger actors, particularly Eoin Lynch as Fergus and Richard Flood as Naisi, made an impression despite these obstacles, but Gemma Reeves seemed a sorrow-free Deirdre and Mick Lally an over-orotund Conchubor. (Presumably Walsh and Morrissey, who in structural terms should have taken these roles, were enjoying a well-earned break.) It didn't spoil the wonder that was The Playboy, but it reaffirmed my suspicion that a fine play well performed is a good thing, while a festival is, by inevitable logic, too much of a good thing.

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