Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Juno And The Paycock"

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note: entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark

"Juno And The Paycock"


by Sean O'Casey
Directed by Polly Hogan

Set Design by Jeff Gardiner
Lighting Design by Jennifer Simon
Costume Design by Marguerite Scott
Stage Manager Michele Keith

Mary Boyle..................................Alison Weller
"Juno" Boyle...............................Sheila Ferrini
Johnny Boyle............................Jonathan Bradshaw
Jerry Devine.................................Ron Hennegen
Captain Boyle................................Ron Ritchell
Joxer Daly...............................Michael Bradshaw
Charlie Bentham.............................Peter Berkrot
Maise Madigan................................Renee Miller
Mrs. Tancred..................................Polly Hogan
Mrs. Manning.................................Susan Putnam
Needle Nugent..................................Gary Kirby
Furniture Removal Man.........................David Lurie
Furniture Removal Man...........................Tim Walsh
Irregular Army gunman......................Stephen Turner
Irregular Army Gunman........................Andrew Lutin


Is there anything funnier than a drunken Irishman, nor anything sadder than his poor put-upon wife, and will "The Troubles" never stop ruining their lives with the funerals of young sons? Though Sean O'Casey wrote "Juno And The Paycock" in 1922 the Lyric Stage production there's the wry lilt of last Paddy's Day's political brunch about it, while the sudden fruit of I.R.A. bullets tips comedy to tragedy as swiftly as a sound-bite from yesterday's Dublin back-streets.

The Boyle family is one long neighbor-disturbing brawl living on the tick in a Dublin tenement, each after trying to snatch a shred of tarnished dignity from their failing fortunes. There's Captain Boyle (Ron Ritchell), convinced that work is the curse of the drinking classes and hoping to avoid as much of it as he can. There's pretty Mary Boyle (Alison Weller) just as determined to avoid marriage to the honest young man what loves her, and young Johnny (Jonathan Bradshaw), having given a gimpy leg and half an arm in the struggle for Nationhood hoping not to be drawn back to the deadly cycle of raids and reprisals. And then there's Sheila Ferrini's matriarch "Juno" Boyle, determined to stave off poverty and disgrace but with nothing left but her chiding tongue to do it with, and her strutting "paycock" of a husband thwarting her at every turn.

But you mustn't think this is all gloom and grittiness, for being Irish these are great singers and great talkers, and the words of Sean O'Casey can turn turn any mere bald-faced liar into a lovable spalpheen they can. You just take that two-faced gossipping drink-snatching pub-buddy of the Captain's Joxer Daly, with a rhyming platitude for every occasion. Played by Michael Bradshaw he's such a twister you'd swear the Blarney Stone'd up and kissed him. And in real life this here Michael Bradshaw's Jonathan Bradshaw's Da don't you know. Teaching him how to become the living image of a '20s cartoon potato-eater, he is.

And we mustn't forget the widowed neighbor Masie Madigan (Renee Miller), with her eidetic memory for dates and family connection, her joy in a jar or two and her way with a bawdy ballad, her lunge into direct action to get back a bit of her own, push come to shove.

For the raw pain of reality is as much with the Boyles as their evasive half-truths. Ron Hennegan as Jerry Devine Mary's strong union-man lover, and Peter Berkrot as Charlie Bentham the wannabe lawyer that turned her head are as much a part of that reality as Polly Hogan's Mrs. Tancred following an I.R.A. hearse to the grave of her only son, or Gary Kirby as the flinch-fisted tailor Needle Nugent, or Stephen Turner and Andrew Lutin as cold- eyed and trench-coated patriot gunman, or David Lurie and Tim Walsh as the removal men come for unpaid-for furniture.

As director, Polly Hogan gives each a star-turn, and she manages the sudden plunges from brash comedy to cold truth. Hers is a tendency though to leave an actor alone on stage with only the words to work with, and not all her actors use O'Casey to the fullest. It is at last surprising, however, that though Jeff Gardiner's set and Marguerite Scott's costumes anchor the show firmly in the 1920's, the failure of poetic speeches to free the Boyles from their past speaks as much of their problems then as Ireland's problems this very morning.

Love,
===Anon.


at

THE LYRIC STAGE
140 Clarendon Street, BOSTON
till 13 April
1(617)437-7172



THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide
| MARQUEE | CURTAIN | USHER | INTERMISSION |