Aug 07, 2020
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Paul Schlesinger / The Collegian Top left: Senior theatre arts major Joel Young tackles the black Irish comedy, “The Playboy of the Western World” as its lead Christy Mahon.

‘The Playboy of the Western World’ actors tackle the classic Irish dark comedy

The Department of Theatre Arts will present the Irish black comedy “The Playboy of the Western World.” Written by Irish playwright John Millington Synge, the play tells the story of a young, mysterious man stumbling into a rural tavern in Ireland, claiming to have killed his father.

Directed by Brad Myers, the play opens Friday at 8 p.m. in the John Wright Theatre in the Speech Arts Building and will run until May 9.

“It’s a play that beautifully captures the Irish vernacular,” Myers said. “It really is just a terrific story.”

The play takes place in the beautiful West Coast of Ireland, where the storyline’s twists and turns help put forth the characters’ eccentricities, Myers added.

Fresno State theatre arts majors Joel Young and Amanda Valdez play the leads. Young plays the young man Christy Mahon while Valdez plays the assertive barmaid Margaret Flaherty, who is also known as Pegeen Mike.

Young said when Mahon finally comes to the town proclaiming that he murdered his father, the townspeople view him as a celebrity and put him on a pedestal.

“It is so easy to be shaped by what people say about you and in many ways, it is also very tempting to become this romanticized image of what a person might consider you to be,” Young said.

Young said his character in particular, has a poetic soul.

“The way he describes images and creates these whole worlds with his words is very, very beautiful and is what helps him woo another character in the play,” Young said.

Valdez said she has many similar characteristic traits in relation to Pegeen Mike. She said that it is like tapping into her own personality. She described herself as being very outspoken—much like Pegeen. However, she also said Pegeen shows her vulnerability when bonding with Mahon.

“Christy definitely needs her and she definitely needs him to create and to help Christy to really discover who he is as well,” Valdez said.  “Without Pegeen, Christy wouldn’t be transformed from the beginning of the play — where he is this kind of sheepish character — to the end of the play where he becomes a totally different character.”

Valdez said “The Playboy of the Western World” is an Irish story about adolescence and growing to discover oneself amongst other people. The play at one time even caused riots when it opened in Ireland more than 100 years ago due to the nature of its content, she added.

For this dark play, Myers said he looked for actors to have certain acting capabilities. He wanted actors to be disciplined, adaptable and flexible as well as the ability to craft a strong Irish accent since the characters speak with an Irish dialect.

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