- Photo by Dru Sefton
The first part in a series rating the Irishness of local Irish plays for St. Patrick's Day. For an explanation of the scoring read: Which of D.C.'s Irish plays is the most Irish? Previously: Charming Billy.
The Washington Shakespeare Company's Juno and the Paycock chronicles the rise and fall of a family living beyond their means in a 1922 Dublin tenement – instantly topical again, thanks to Ireland's current economic woes. I included it as a critic's pick for the week of February 27th. But does this family's cautionary tale make it among the most Irish plays in D.C.?
Drinking: 7. The woes of the "Captain" Jack Boyle (Joe Palka) – the patriarch of the family – are due more to his laziness and fiscal mismanagement than his drinking. However, he and his buddy Joxer (Christopher Henley) like to knock back a few cold ones, and the Boyles' neighbor Maisie Madigan (Kathleen Akerley) has a bit where she asks for a spot of spirits – and keeps asking, and asking, and asking.
Swearing: 1. There's little cursing, save the occasional "holy mother of God" uttered by son Johnny (Jay Hardee).
Family drama: 10. Juno is nothing but family drama: There's the overburdened wife, the sulky wounded war veteran of a son, the trollop of a daughter, and the preening but lazy bum of a dad. The family comes together once they are led to believe that they've come into the inheritance money of a distant cousin, but as soon as the money's gone, the family falls apart.
Male/female ratio: 5. While the focus is on the Captain's downfall, the troubles of Juno (Cam Magee) and their daughter, Mary (Melissa Marie Hmelnicky), are just as important. But most of the best comedic bits go to the Captain and Joxer, while Juno and Mary are shrewish and foolish, respectively.
The supernatural: 5. A ghost makes a brief but memorable appearance, when PTSD-afflicted son Johnny believes he sees one in the next room.
Death/injury: 6. Johnny has lost an arm in the war. As for death, it's seen as a sign of the Boyle family's downfall that they aren't properly mournful when a neighbor's son is killed: "It's nearly time we had a little less respect for the dead, and a little more regard for the living," says Juno. But most of the main characters survive.
Tracksuits: 0. It's set in 1922. But if it were set in the present-day, Johnny would totally be a tracksuit kind of guy.
Weather: 0. Not prominent in this show.
Potatoes: 0. Juno cooks the Captain a sausage for breakfast, instead.
Accents: 5. The actors have a thick brogue, but some of them have mastered it better than others – and at the performance I attended, some of the accents weren't as pronounced in the second act.
Bonus points: 3. For the traditional Irish songs drunkenly sung in the second act.
Total score: 42. If only playwright Sean O'Casey had written a terrible storm into the family's miseries, it could have beaten Charming Billy in Irish archetypes! Oh well.