Juno and the Paycock

At the Loeb this weekend and next weekend.

The Abbott Theatre (so called because Mr. Samuel Abbott is the director of the Juno and the Paycock now at the Loeb) is not, to be sure, the Abbey Theatre; but even on its own terms its new Juno is curiously lackluster. Not that it's poor--how could it be with actors like Andreas Teuber and Kenneth Tigar (or with a director like Abbott)--but why oh why isn't it any better?

Perhaps Abbott picked the wrong play, or at least the wrong author: O'Casey's prickly-pear mixture of the gay and the grim, the heartless and the sentimental is often awkward enough. But, then, Richard III is no pip and Abbott did well enough by that, and with, generally speaking, a much less effective cast. Lynn Milgrim, the Juno of this Juno, for instance, could not be better: business-like in her work, gruff in her joy, searing in her grief. Patricia Fay is an honest, spirited Mary Boyle, at once demure and uncompromising. Sheila Forde who appears briefly as the bereaved Mrs. Tancred, impresses one with the genuineness of her lament.

Captain Jack (Andreas Teuber) is less convincing. He has all of the pay-cock's swagger, color, and noise--and just a bit too much of this last: do all Irishmen shout quite as much as the ones on the Loeb stage?--but he has so little of the necessary humor. He probably shouts simply to obscure his brogue which is obscure, but my goodness, man, that's no way to tell a joke. Kenneth Tigar shouts his jokes too, but that's because he realizes they are all basically the same joke (he is asked to call everything "Darlin'") and politely tries to hide the fact. (Teuber, incidentally, has been made up to look like a cross between Pinocchio's father, Charley Weaver of the Jack Paar show, and Angelo Winemaker of the TV commercials. Ugh.)

The set, too, is, for present purposes, admirable: the Boyle flat is both austere and serviceable; ugly, but not off-putting. And the lighting, eminently professional, as is all lighting by Jonathan F. Warburg, complements, and compliments, it. Why, then--and I trust you will forgive this spate of rhetorical questions--is this Juno for all its sparks of incandescence, such a flickering candle? I can think of some three reasons, at the moment. 1.) The pacing, particularly in the first two acts, is entirely too slow--almost lackadaisical. 2.) There is little attempt to force the Boyles and their friends to relate to one another. Individual idiosyncracies are too often humored: the actors are acting for themselves, not with each other. 3.) There is an air of unreality about everything in the play except the mourning scenes. There, Death is real enough, but it seems to have come almost accidentally; one gets no sense of Dublin as a city gripped by civil war, endlessly suffering. The fact of the War in Juno must always be unconsciously present, even when it is not being consciously discussed; were it not for the war, Juno would never abandon Jack. His own unreality and unconsciousness of the war should remain his own, so that it can be repudiated. When it permeates the play, as it does in Abbott's production, it only muddles the meaning and confuses the audience.


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