3 by Synge | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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3 BY SYNGE, Artistic Home. If I were Ireland and John Millington Synge weren't dead, I'd sue him for libel. Though he professed great love for his native land, his plays savaged it. Riots accompanied the premiere of The Playboy of the Western World, triggered by its ugly satirical portrait of Irish peasants. The Tinker's Wedding went unproduced for fear of further disruptions. Even Synge's tragic Riders to the Sea, in which an old mother confronts the loss of her six seafaring sons, implicitly criticizes a culture drowning in the old ways.

Artistic Home makes a token effort to soften Synge's blows against Hibernia, cloaking them in a dry ice fog of nostalgia. But it can't be done. Synge's critique--and his charm--are both vividly apparent in this evening of short plays.

The first piece, In the Shadow of the Glen, is a wry variation on the commedia gambit of the old man cuckolded by his young wife: where the Italians would've given the wife a worthwhile lover, Synge forces her to choose between the geriatric and a drunk. Next comes Riders to the Sea--a nonstarter here because of Susan Burke's weak mother. The Tinker's Wedding more than compensates, however. As directed by Mike Carroll, this seemingly slight work about an Irish gypsy's bid for respectability becomes a titanic battle between the Celtic past and Christian present. The tinkers--CeCe Klinger, Maria Stephens, and a slack-jawed Pete Fitzsimmons--are marvelous.

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