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This Weekend: Classic Irish Drama and “Hamlet” on Stage

Sean O'Casey's "Juno and the Paycock" plays through Sunday at California Stage.

There are many tragedies of war. More than enough to go around. They are on the battlefield, of course, but those who fight and live return with wounds both physical and psychological. Meanwhile, other effects of war, including disillusionment, distrust, anger and angst, affect everyone.

In Sean O’Casey’s classic “Juno and the Paycock,” which closes this weekend at California Stage, war and its effects abound. One family – the Boyles – shows what it means to be a victim of conflict and of society.

The play debuted in 1924 and is set in the working class tenements of Dublin in the early 1920s, soon after the start of the Irish Civil War.

Juno (Michele Koehler) is the only working member of the Boyle family. The daughter is on strike and the son John lost an arm in battle and has what we now call PTSD.

Jack Boyle (the “paycock,” or peacock) of the title is a loafer, a guy who claims he’s unable to work because of the pains in his legs and who spends his time at the bar or at home with his “butty” Joxer. Ed Claudio plays Jack with an Irish charm that makes the unlikable character sympathetic. James Anderson is a match for Claudio, giving the sycophantic Joxer a “darlin’, just darlin’” appeal.

The promise of an inheritance launches a spending spree, done on credit in anticipation of a windfall that never arrives. The final scene, in which Jack’s life is shown to be literally empty is heartbreaking.

As Juno says somewhat before that sad scene, “It’s nearly time we had a little less respect for the dead and a little more regard for the living.”


Note: The Irish accents are strong and the rhythm of speech needs a little getting used to, but it’s very much worth it.

“Juno and the Paycock” plays at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at California Stage, 1725 25th St.

For tickets or for more information, call (916) 451-5822 or go to CalStage.org.

Sac Ballet Does Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” isn’t necessarily the kind of show you think of when you think of Valentine’s Day, but give it a shot.

Sacramento Ballet will present the California premier of choreographer Stephen Mills’ “Hamlet” with music by Phillip Glass on Friday. The dark tale is full of drama – and beauty – in Mills’ version which takes a contemporary approach to the classic tale.

Christopher Nachtrab dances the role of Hamlet on Friday and Sunday, with Anthony Cannarella taking the role on Saturday. Julia Feldman performs the role of Ophelia with Nachtrab, while Isabella Velasquez dances the role opposite Cannarella.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Community Center Theater, 1301 L St. Tickets are $30-$75.

Opening night is a recognition and celebration of Sacramento’s cultural diversity and is designated LGBTQ night.

For tickets or for more information, call (916) 552-5800 or go to Sacballet.org.

Photo courtesy California Stage.

About the author

Jim Carnes

Jim Carnes has masters degrees in English and journalism and is a former National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow in popular culture at Stanford University. He has covered Sacramento arts and entertainment for more than 20 years. He currently writes about and reviews theater, dance, music and events in the Sacramento area.

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