Theater Review: Its Irish, its inevitable
By Jim Lowe
Staff Writer | July 26,2013
Jim Lowe / Staff Photo
David Connor, left, is Jack Boyle and Juan Schwartz is his fair-weather friend Joxer in Unadilla Theatre’s “Juno and the Paycock.”
Sean O’Casey’s 1924 classic “Juno and the Paycock” is a firsthand look at life in Dublin during the Irish Civil War. What begins as a light comedy spirals downhill into a tragedy nearly universally shared in that beleaguered country.
Unadilla Theatre has mounted a powerful production of this gritty and real drama that benefits from some fine dramatic performances.
This drama, which became a 1930 Alfred Hitchcock film, was written in 1922 when Ireland was not only dealing with an internal war that pitted neighbor against neighbor, it was suffering from deep poverty. The Boyle family, living in a Dublin tenement, is emblematic.
Jack Boyle, the blowhard family patriarch, says he cannot work because of the pains in his legs. Daughter Mary is on strike over the treatment of a fellow worker, and son Johnny has lost an arm and smashed his hip in the war, so he cannot work either. It is left to Juno, the mother, to not only support but care for her hapless family.
When a lawyer comes onto the scene telling the Boyles they have inherited a small fortune from a cousin, it seems that the family’s fortunes have changed. Jack can not only drink on the credit engendered by his expectations, he is able to refurnish his home as well as his wardrobe. Mary is courted by the lawyer and falls in love. Everything is looking up, and Jack — the “Paycock” or “Peacock” — is lording it over his neighbors.
But things are not what they seem, and the results are catastrophic. What began as comedy ends as tragedy — seemingly inevitable in an Irish play.
The Unadilla production, directed by playwright Jeanne Beckwith, has the community theater’s trademark mixed-level cast, ranging from professional to rank amateur. Still, Unadilla remains Vermont’s Mecca for great plays.
At Wednesday’s mid-run performance, David Connor delivered a potent performance as Jack Boyle, one that made this narcissist almost sympathetic. Conversely, Nika Allen (a stage name) as the beleaguered Juno managed the delicate balance between logical thinking and protecting her children with love of her ungrateful husband.
Juan Schwartz (another stage name) was essentially the “court jester” as the opportunistic Joxer, offering charming comic relief in this doomed situation. Claire Demarais gave real dimension to the betrayed daughter Mary, while Vincent Broderick made Johnny’s fear of retribution real.
Unadilla’s “Juno and the Paycock” offers an unusual opportunity to see one of the great Irish plays.
Unadilla Theatre presents “Juno and the Paycock,” the Sean O’Casey classic drama, through Aug. 3 at its old playhouse, 501 Blachly Road in Marshfield. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays. Tickets are $20, $10 for 12 and younger; call 456-8968 or email Unadilla@pshift.com.