PORTLAND – In many ways, Sally Wood was the perfect choice to direct the Irish tragedy “Juno and the Paycock,” which the American Irish Repertory Ensemble opens this week at the St. Lawrence Arts and Community Center.

The play portrays a poor Irish family struggling to survive the upheaval of Ireland’s Civil War. Juno, the play’s central character, is the matriarch of the family who does her best to get the most out of her drunken husband and their troubled children.

Not that Wood can relate to those problems. But with a 10-month old girl at home, Wood is a new mom. She sympathizes with Juno’s character, and brings the empathy of a mother to her role as director.

“The heart of the family is the central theme of this play,” Wood said.

Written by Sean O’Casey, “Juno and the Paycock” is part of the playwright’s Dublin Trilogy, along with “Shadow of a Gunman” and “The Plough and the Stars.” The trilogy explores the impact of the struggle for Irish independence on everyday folks.

It debuted in 1924 at the end of Ireland’s Civil War, and immediately struck a nerve with the Irish populace, said Tony Reilly, AIRE’s artistic director. He stars in the show as Juno’s no-good husband.

“Juno” represents the first show that AIRE has produced that Reilly is not directing or co-directing.

Especially for this show, he felt it was time to hand the director’s duties off to someone else. He has known Wood for many years, and appreciated her work at the Theater at Monmouth, Portland Stage and Fenix Theater.

Given the strong female presence in this play, it made sense for him to give Wood artistic control, he said.

“At its core, the play is about the mothers and the daughters who stay home and keep things together while the men tear their country apart,” Reilly said.

The play has a cast of 10, with Maureen Butler in the leading role as Juno. In addition to Reilly, other members of the cast are Paul Haley, Susan Reilly, Mark Rubin, Joe Bearor, Matthew Delamater, Elizabeth Lardie, Nate Speckman and Tess Van Horn.

 

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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