ADA — Cross Timbers Theatre Company, in association with Integris Heart Hospital and Dr. Troy Norred, will be presenting J.M Synge's "The Playboy of the Western World" beginning on Feb. 10 at East Central University's Faust Auditorium.

A special preview was held Wednesday evening and I got my first chance to watch a Cross Timbers Theatre performance. The two-hour event was both entertaining and funny, once I got used to the Irish accents.

"The Playboy of the Western World" takes place in a shabby village pub on a wild coast of Mayo in early 1900's Ireland. In the first act, we are introduced to Margaret "Pegeen Mike" Flaherty (Cassie Miller), a gruff Irish bartender not afraid of anything or anyone, unlike fear-stricken Shawn Keogh (Kevin Worden), a man likely scared of his own shadow.

Shawn discovers a wandering stranger in the area, alerting Pegeen Mike and her father, Michael James Flaherty (Christian Carvajal) and pub patrons Philly Cullen (Dave Jewett) and Jimmy Farrell (Mike Manos). The stranger eventually finds his way into the pub and, while mysterious to those inside, also serves as a topic of interest. He quickly identifies himself as Christopher Mahon (Affonso Landess), a young man who has spent several days meandering aimlessly after fighting with his father and killing him with a blow the the head. Christopher tells his story to his newfound audience and they're quickly captured by this tragic tale, and he quickly becomes the talk of the town. So quick, in fact, that Widow Quin (Abby Marks), a condescending and pompous snoop, makes an unscheduled visit to see the wary man that night.

After spending the night in the pub, Christopher wakes to realize that he's quite the attraction. Three other nosy women, Sara Tansey (Sunnie Smith), Susan Brady (Tiffani Wilson) and Honor Blake (Alisa Blevins), all stop by to offer food to Christopher, although their main goal is to catch a glimpse of the man who murdered his father. Developing both a large head from all of the attention and a crush on Pegeen Mike, Christopher eagerly tells his story to anyone who will listen. Things seem to be looking on the upside for him, until someone he thought was behind him quickly comes to bring him back to reality.

It was apparent that a lot of time and effort was put into "The Playboy of the Western World" by the Cross Timbers cast. The acting was both humorous and slightly wicked, mainly on behalf of Marks' ability to come off as snide but in the most proper manner possible. The four busybody women could actually serve as an early 20th century blueprint for "Desperate Housewives," as each of the women represented something different, with one lusting for the story, another lusting for the gory details and another simply lusting after the man himself.

Cassie Miller portrayed Pegeen Mike with a tough girl image, although there were times when that rough exterior was let down to show a more vulnerable side, while Jewett and Manos were strictly the Heckle and Jeckle of the group, doing nothing more than stirring up trouble and laughing along the way.

Landess represented Christopher Mahon in a way in which you can see the progression from a scared, ordinary guy to that of someone who's receiving more attention than he has before, although that only lasts for a while before it is once again deflated.

In conclusion, "The Playboy of the Western World" was a nice two-hour escape back into 1900's Ireland. It's ironic to see how gossip spread so fast even back then.

"The Playboy of the Western World" will be presented on Feb. 10-11 and 17-18 at 8 p.m. at ECU's Faust Auditorium. The play will be presented on the 17th with a translator for the deaf, and on the 18th, a matinee will be offered at 2 p.m., in addition to the 8 p.m. show.

Tickets are $7, but they will be offering discounts to both groups and students. For more information or reservations, phone (580) 272-0649.

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