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Juno and the Paycock

Reviewed by Michael Lazan

Presented by the Roundabout Theatre Company at the Gramercy Theatre, 127 E. 23rd St., NYC. Opened Oct. 19 for an open run.

Partisans of the Irish theatre will want to put a circle around the Roundabout revival of Sean O'Casey's classic about a beleaguered family during the Irish Civil War. Several vivid, highly emotional performances, augmented by particularly lovely production values, make it hard to imagine that the play could be done much better.

"Juno and the Paycock," about a poor family that stands to inherit a large sum of money amid the violence and poverty of 1920s Dublin, is an affecting but relentlessly morose piece by which O'Casey intended to demystify the notion that the "Troubles" were something romantic. Some of this is a bit forced—and the ending is especially melodramatic—but it's never a chore to let director John Crowley's actors take you back some 70 years into a mystical and dark world. In the eyes and expressions of these fine professionals, the play comes alive with a wistful melancholy that leaves a lasting impression.

Some of the acting, especially by the veterans in the cast, is of the highest order. As Captain Jack Boyle, the irresponsible and irrepressible husband, Jim Norton is somehow both sympathetic and satanic at the same time. He gives one of the winning performances of the year, especially when paired with Thomas Jay Ryan (as fellow miscreant Joxer Daly). And when Norton is paired with Dearbhla Molloy, the long-suffering wife, Juno, O'Casey's vision of a fated Ireland comes into especially clear view.

Some of the younger cast members fare less well, especially Jason Butler Harner, who displays a distinct lack of subtlety in his overcharged interpretation of the wounded son and soldier, Johnny Boyle. But the piece mostly works nonetheless, no doubt in part due to director Crowley's careful attention to the details of the culture, as framed by Rae Smith's gorgeous and grim set and Brian MacDevitt's austere and moody lighting.

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