By Katherine Karlson

In March 2020, the Summer Savoyards staged a fine production of John Millington Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World at the Bundy Museum in Binghamton. Only one weekend of the two-week run was completed before the COVID pandemic shut it down.

The world has come back, and so has this talented troupe of actors with a different take on the same play, opening Friday (Feb. 18) for a three-performance run at the Cider Mill Stage in Endicott.

“It’s a revival but a fresh production,” said director Mary Donnelly.

“It’s the same reason the Summer Savoyards have been around so long: They perform the same operettas but with different casts each time,” she added. (Note: The production is a fundraiser for a hoped-for return this summer to a fully-staged Gilbert & Sullivan operetta.)

Donnelly had the challenge of recasting the four main leads in the play due to the departures of the original actors from the area, and the new talent has individual acting styles and abilities that have shifted the tone. “There’s a slightly different flavor of more madcap physical comedy,” she said.

Ian Harrison Cook as Pegeen Mike’s milquetoast suitor, Shawn Keough, is “a phenomenal comic actor,” Donnelly said.

His rival for Pegeen’s affections, Christy Mahon, is played Ryan Canavan, whom Donnelly describes as “having an immediate grasp of the part and can turn on a dime to show both sides of his character.”

Add to this merry mix the natural comedic talents of Charles Berman, who plays the heroine’s father, Michael Flaherty, — “he looks funny but is not funny looking” — and Julia Adams, who is Pegeen Mike, and “there is lots of room for the actors to inhabit an older play, a familiar story, with something that’s fresh and different,” Donnelly added.

“At rehearsals, they are always cracking each other up. It’s been wonderful watching all the pieces come together,” she said.

Like a solid building foundation, the returning cast members provide an understanding of the play but have adapted to the new, comedic vibe the newcomers bring.

Jessica Pullis, who plays the scheming Widow Quin, says she now plays the role with more depth so that she contrasts with her fellow players.

“Because Ian is such a physical actor, I had to narrow my movements. I try to support, not compete with him on stage,” Pullis said.

The new venue of the Cider Mill Stage provides an intimate space with the added benefit of more room for actors to maneuver on stage.

“Widow Quin loves to go through objects at or on the bar, and now my movements won’t distract from the other actors,” Pullis added.

With Pegeen Mike, Julia Adams emphasizes the character’s explosive temper, which Pullis responds to by playing the Widow Quin as sweet and friendly, not at all combative.

Adams sees Pegeen as a strong woman for her time (1907), but who also has found that strength a liability.

“Now I have spent more time with her, I am attached to her vulnerability,” Adams said.

“For a strong woman on the outside, she points out the dangers of the world many times. At the end, she is trapped between her self-perception and the town’s expectation of her.  She is a strong woman whom the world backs into a corner,” she reflected.

Adams notes that all the characters she interacts with are new cast members and the process of creating those relationships will provide the audience with theatrical fireworks.

“We are throwing stuff onto the wall and seeing what sticks,” she said. “There’s always a wild card in the mix, and the four of us put the ‘wild’ in wild card. (More about Adams below.)

One of the challenges of performing an Anglo-Irish play is striking the right balance between the lilting, sung quality of the language itself while using a realistic accent.  Donnelly has a dialect coach work with the actors to achieve this goal.

For theatergoers who saw the first production, a return visit will definitely delight as it provides a new take on the truth that “there’s a great gap between a gallous story and a dirty deed.”

IF YOU GO: The Summer Savoyards’ fundraising production of The Playboy of the Western World will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 18-20) at the Cider Mill Stage, 2 Nanticoke Ave., Endicott. For tickets, visit or call 607-321-9630.

Ticket sales will benefit both the Savoyards and the Cider Mill Stage. Cider Mill Stage will be offering its usual refreshments, and the Savoyards will be serving a special “show cocktail,” dubbed Pegeen’s Punch. Sláinte!