Review: ‘Juno and the Paycock’ at California Stage

Juno and the Paycock: Fri 8pm, Sat 8pm, Sun 2pm; Through 2/17; $15-$20; California Stage, 1725 25th Street; (916) 451-5822;
Rated 4.0

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the Irish War of Independence—a three-year, guerrilla uprising against British rule. And in 1924, Irish playwright Sean O’Casey debuted his play Juno and the Paycock, focused on the fractured footsteps left behind on the Boyle family, struggling in the squalor of a Dublin tenement.

Though Juno references the upheaval, this is a personal play about how politics, poverty, poor choices and limited options tear a family apart. California Stage’s production captures this play’s heart and heartbreak with a strong cast and a beautifully rendered production.

The matriarch of the family is Juno Boyle, who tries to keep family and finances afloat—played with fierce, fiery determination by Michele Koehler. Edward Claudio softly slides soul and sentiment into his portrayal of her sad-sap husband, Jack, while the rest of the dozen talented actors skillfully individualize each of their unique characters.

It takes a while for this production to find the right rhythm—both in the pacing and in the Irish accents. But once it does, the audience is effectively pulled into the family drama and dynamics— helped along with period-perfect sets and costu­mes, and sweetly spiced up with Gaelic songs and storytelling.—Patti Roberts