Juno, A Feast for the Eyes

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How it’s New York: The Irish Repertory Theatre is here and some of the cast form NY
Ciarán O’Reilly, who is currently starring as "Captain" Jack Boyle©James Higgins

Ciarán O’Reilly, who is currently starring as “Captain” Jack Boyle©James Higgins

How it’s Irish: Sean O’Casey is an Irish playwright, most of the cast are Irish, and it is set in Dublin

For years I thought Joxer Daly was just a good name for a pub on the north side of Dublin.

Having always shied away from Sean O’Casey plays because of the dark period in our history which they portray, it was with some trepidation I went to see the Irish Rep’s renditon of Juno and the Paycock last week. As I suspected, it was Chekhovian  in its mostly dark and hopeless themes, but I was delighted to discover that at least O’Casey had the good sense to intersperse humor into his work.

The Irish Rep’s seamless production and high caliber cast transports the audience back to a tenement

J. Smith-Cameron as Juno Boyle, ©James Higgins

J. Smith-Cameron as Juno Boyle, ©James Higgins

building in 1920’s Dublin. First produced there in 1924, the play sees the civil war raging outside its walls while rebellion and anarchy rage within. Juno (J. Smith-Cameron), the epitome of the long suffering Irish matriarch, stoically holds a very fragile bundle of loosely tied egos together in the form of the Boyle family – the Captain, Jack, (Ciarán O’Reilly) and their two grown children, Mary (Mary Mallen) and Johnny (Ed Malone).

Charlotte Moore directs a wonderfully visual feast –  the dark gray and black hues that dominate the set and costumes  in the opening scenes,  clearly set the tone for the themes ahead, and when the Boyles’ luck changes for the better, opulence abounds, as if the color contrast is switched from one end of the dial to the other, as the stage bursts into reds and golds.

O’Reilly’s is a natural as the Captain and struts around the stage the way Juno claims he struts around town – like a ‘paycock’. Living off the story he has made up for himself – that of the life of a sea captain who travels the world, when in fact, as Juno gladly rages at him, he has only ever been on a boat once

Ciarán O’Reilly (as "Captain" Jack Boyle) and John Keating (as Joxer Daly), ©James Higgins

Ciarán O’Reilly (as “Captain” Jack Boyle) and John Keating (as Joxer Daly), ©James Higgins

and that was only to Liverpool.

Smith-Cameron is a wonder …

and her working class Dublin accent, though a little off in the first scene, was pitch perfect for the rest of the play.

 

Both John Keating’s (Joxer Daly) and Malone’s very physical acting brings their characters to life without much need for words –  their eyes and body movements do most of the work for them. Malone, whom I saw a few years ago in Three Irish Widows vs. The Rest of the World, studied mime in Paris (ooh la la!) – so that explains that. Keating, playing the ne’er do well wingman and enabler to the Captain, also appeared in The Weir at this theater and was watch worthy in that too.

His often repeated, ‘darlin’’, used in verb form, is in itself worth spending the money on a ticket for this show. And delightfully, he repeats it umpteen times.

J. Smith-Cameron (as Juno Boyle), Ed Malone (as Johnny Boyle), and Ciarán O’Reilly (as "Captain" Jack Boyle) , ©James Higgins

J. Smith-Cameron (as Juno Boyle), Ed Malone (as Johnny Boyle), and Ciarán O’Reilly (as “Captain” Jack Boyle) , ©James Higgins

Plenty of cups of ‘teh’ were consumed on the stage, perhaps to keep warm in the tenement house, though in spite of having a cup in my own hand for much of the show, warmth was not forthcoming in the too cold theater space.

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