Brigit Saint Brigit Theatre Company continues its mission of focusing on Irish culture in an earnest and respectable production of Sean O’Casey’s famed Juno and the Paycock. Craig Lee’s excellently conceived set brings home the dreariness of life in these characters’ tenement. Filling the place with color, Joseph Miloni puts thoroughly dynamic character into “Joxer” Daly.
“Joxer” is hanger-on and buddy to “Captain” Jack Boyle. Boyle, the “paycock” (an Irish pronunciation of “peacock”) is often thought of as a strutting, preening braggart. Juno is his enduring wife. Their grown son Johnny lost an arm during the still-smoldering Irish Civil War and lives at home, continuing to fear for his life. His sister Mary is there too. Her job has been suspended during a strike. Juno continues to work and is the only source of family income. Early on they learn from visiting solicitor Charles Bentham that they have come into an inheritance from a distant relative. And, in time, while they wait for the money, Bentham courts Mary. Therein lie expectations and developments.
Along the way, O’Casey has included recitations of poetry, singing of songs and even a bit of philosophical musing from the intelligent Bentham. On opening night these elements came across clearly and well, providing respite from the darkness inside and outside the story's walls.
“Captain” Jack is often considered comic, due to his posturing, his occasional mangling of language, as well as his obvious avoidance of any constructive activity. “Joxer’s” personality is also often seen as a source of laughter. That evening Brent Spencer’s take on Boyle seemed rather restrained and more serious than amusing, as if clumsy and bewildered. Such an interpretation can be valid but didn’t much convey someone thoroughly self-impressed. The more dynamic Miloni kept “Joxer” lively, especially when gobbling down and swilling any available scraps of food or drops of drink, although not obviously funny. It looked as if director Cathy M. W. Kurz aimed to keep them from over-playing.
Delaney Driscoll made Juno a good soul, a woman trying to be and to do her best, more patient than suffering, a sturdy version rather than a sad and sympathetic one. In smaller roles Scottie Pace gave a believable impression of cultivation to Bentham, although implied sleaziness would have added legitimate depth. And Nick Hartnett did well as Jerry Devine, a neighbor with a crush on Mary. The cast includes Noah Diaz as Johnny, seen to much better advantage in Tribes from SNAP. By the way, Spencer enhanced that too, a different father and son combination.
Kurz’s staging has made excellent use of the constrained playing space while her direction of the performances kept all of them convincing and truthful. She also provides admirable program book background reading about the play and related Irish history, making the experience even more telling.
Juno and The Paycock continues through March 15 at Brigit Saint Brigit, 1002 Dodge Street, Thurs-Sat: 7:30 p.m. Sun: 2 p.m. $12-$25. More info at www.bsbtheatre.com 402.502.4910