Once MN's Guthrie Theatre finishes its annual Christmas Carol, Dec. 28, another funny and heartwarming classic arrives: John Millington Synge's The Playboy Of The Western World. The show begins Jan. 21, opens Jan. 23 and runs to Feb. 21.
Into a broken-down pub wanders Christy Mahon, who claims he murdered his father with a turf blade -- and becomes a hero for it. Joe Dowling directs this comedy by the author of Riders To The Sea and The Tinker's Wedding.
Says director Dowling, "Synge's play is widely regarded as a comic masterpiece, combining a rich and poetic language with a wild and extravagant action." Dowling intends to concentrate on "the savagery and wild abandon" of the townfolk, possibly an influence of the success of recent plays by Irish dramatist Martin McDonagh (The Beauty Queen Of Leenane, The Cripple Of Inishmaan).
Starring in Playboy is Michael Hayden, best known as the lead in the National Theatre's acclaimed Carousel revival in London and Broadway. He also appeared in All My Sons at the Roundabout. Co starring with Hayden are Michelle O'Neill (Pegeen Mike), Jarlath Conroy, Nathaniel Fuller, Richard S. Iglewski, Caitlin O'Connell, Derdriu Ring, Laura Esping, Ruth Childs, Suzanne Warmanen, Paul O'Brien, Rod Mechem and Kevin Kling. The latter is best known as the author of The Ice Fishing Plays.
Designing The Western World are Blake Burba (lighting), Scott Edwards (sound), Susan E. Mickey (costumes) and Frank Flood (set). Also on tap for the Guthrie season:
Thunder Knocking On The Door (Feb. 27-March 28, opening March 4, 1998)
Marion McClinton directs Keith Glover's rhythm-n'-blues play, about a family transformed by a mysterious, musical stranger.
Much Ado About Nothing (April 3-May 10, opening April 15, 1998)
Joe Dowling stages William Shakespeare's comedy about the war of wits between Beatrice and Benedick.
Also, running at the Lab (dates not yet announced), will be a world premiere by local playwright Syl Jones. The satire, Black No More, was commissioned by the Guthrie and is adapted from George Schuyler's 1931 novel (considered the first book-length novel written by a black American). Tazewell Thompson directs the comedy, which is co-produced with Washington DC's Arena Stage in association with Mixed Blood Theatre. The show runs March 14-April 19, opening March 20.
In other Guthrie news, the theatre has announced that their May 1997 show will be August Wilson's Fences, in a Penumbra Theatre production directed by Claude Purdy. This joint venture betwen Guthrie and Penumbra is (according to Dowling) "part of a long-term goal to work closely...to strengthen both organizations."
Tickets for Guthrie shows are $15-$36, while season subscriptions are $81-$192. For information call (612) 377-2224.
-- By David Lefkowitz