|Corrine Kolso, Mary Haney, Jim Mezon and Benedict Campbell in Juno and the Paycock (Photo David Cooper)|
My introduction to Sean O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock came when I was an undergraduate at Brandeis University through a memorable black-box production where the audience sat tennis court-style on either side of a long, rectangular playing area. I recall being continually caught up short by the tonal shifts and amazed by the depth of the tragedy undergirding the domestic comedy: the battles between the long-suffering working-class Dublin housewife Juno Boyle and her indolent husband – known as the Captain because of a brief stint he spent on a ship, which he’s fanned into a romantic tale of maritime adventure – who fakes pains in his legs whenever the chance of a job rears its ugly head, preferring to spend his hours tossing back pints at one of the local snugs with his neighbor Joxer. These two incorrigible codgers are the only ones left on stage at the end, when the Boyle family has been torn apart and the creditors have claimed the furniture; they stumble onstage drunk out of their minds and pass out, in a moment that looks forward to the final curtain of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh (where the stage is littered with aging, hopeless dipsomaniacs). In the Brandeis production, one of the pair rolled a whiskey jar to the dead centre of the stage; for the final stage picture, the lights faded to a single special on the empty jar.