WILKES-BARRE — “Will you whisht!” Pegeen’s fiance, Shawn, said through clenched teeth, telling her to be quiet.
“Whisht yourself!” she responded, not sounding overly friendly.
That little exchange takes place early in Wilkes University’s production of “The Playboy of the Western World,” and it offers some clues as to what you might expect in John Millington Synge’s play, which is set in early 20th-century Ireland.
For starters, Pegeen and Shawn are not the most loving of engaged couples, so Pegeen will be all the more susceptible to the charms of a stranger, named Christy, when he shows up at her doorstep with tales of murdering his own father.
“She lives in a boring town, and she’s attracted to that ‘bad boy’ image,” said Taylor Lamerand, 21, of Liberty, N.Y., who plays Pegeen.
Then there’s the use of the word “whisht,” a “pipe-down” command you don’t hear too often anymore. That’s just the tiniest tip of the blarney stone of poetic language you’ll hear in the show.
“It’s a sacred wonder the way that wickedness will spoil a man,” Melissa Berardelli, 18, of Dunmore said as she sat on a staircase, reciting her lines to cast mate Samantha Brady, 18, of Paramus, N.J.
Pausing, both young women admitted they couldn’t think of a way to translate that sentence — spoken by the Widow Quin sometime after she agrees to help Shawn by trying to steal Christy away from Pegeen — into modern English.
There’s a rhythm to Synge’s language, and the more you practice it, the more easily it flows, said Kelsey Butler, 18, of Middletown, N.J. “It reminds me of Shakespeare, but it’s definitely hard to figure out,” she said, before asking director Joe Dawson to define “a flat and three-thorned blackthorn (that) would lick the scholars out of Dublin town.”
“We tried looking it up,” cast mate Brianna Schunk, 19, of York County said. “We found pictures of lizards.”
“It’s a walking stick,” Dawson said, looking over the script. “It’s one of the prizes in a race, along with a fiddle and bagpipes.”
“They really do talk this way in Ireland,” Dawson said, recalling a time he was visiting that country and asked for directions. “A woman told me, ‘just go down the road and it’s on the same side as yourself.’”
In any case, when Christy, played by Kris Tjornhom, 18, of Dingmans Ferry, arrives at Pegeen’s father’s inn, he’ll pique her interest straight off.
“I’d trouble you for a glass of porter, woman of the house,” the character says, explaining he’s been “walking the world” for “11 long days.”
When word gets around that Christy killed his own father, not only Pegeen but the rest of the town will actually be impressed.
“They way this town works,” Tjornhom said, “they have never seen something new.”
As for the actor, if he met such a person in real life he would not necessarily admire him. “A murderer? No,” he said. “But I’d want to hear his story.”
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT
IF YOU GO
What: ‘The Playboy of the Western World’
Where: Dorothy Dickson Darte Center, 100 W. South St., Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre
When: 8 p.m. Sept. 29 to Oct. 1; 2 p.m. Oct. 2
Admission: $10, $5 students and seniors