Timeline’s JUNO Proves The Power of The Matriarch

Juno_1C055RECOMMENDED: THEATRE IN CHICAGO

When Juno opened on Broadway in 1959, its dark storyline of the destruction of a troubled Irish family did not connect with an audience and closed within two weeks.  Juno was clearly ahead of its time as far as subject matter as Les Miserables, Evita, Rent, Once and many others have plot points that delve into raw, real and truthful emotions.   Based on the 1924 play Juno and the Paycock, the musical brings with it a glorious score by Marc Blitzstein and a troubled book by Joseph Stein (Fiddler On The Roof, Zorba).

Fifty-plus years later, Juno is making its Chicago debut at Timeline Theatre Compnay under an engaging and emotional production directed by Nick Bowling who creates a world that is all enveloping for his theatre patrons.  The story takes place during the Irish War of Independence with focus on the broken Boyle family whose patriarch (Captain Jack Boyle) is drunk; their son is suffering from post-trauma war psychosis; their daughter Mary is looking for love in all the wrong men; and matriarch Juno is tasked with keeping some stability amid all the chaos.

Juno_1A569The cast of Juno is stellar, with Marya Grandy turning in a gritty and gut-wrenching performance as Juno opposite an equally raw Ron Rains whose addiction only grows stronger as more privilege seems to come his way.   Emily Glick is a stunning Mary who gets the best songs of the score, which musical directors Doug Peck and Elizabeth Doran bring forth with great authenticity.

As great as the cast is, Juno cannot escape Stein’s disconnected book that leaves the main characters so underdeveloped that any emotional truth these actors inject into them seems forced.  As Fiddler and Zorba came afterwardcha and are full of juicy character studies, it seems like Stein learned from Juno’s failings

Book issues aside, Juno is quite a feast for the eyes and ears and Timeline certainly has given this rare musical an emotional production that will stay will you for days and weeks to come.

Juno plays through July 27, 2014 at Timeline Theatre Company, 615 W. Wellington St. Chicago.  For more information visit www.TimelineTheatre.com  For calendar information visit www.TheatreInChicago.com

Photo Credit: Lara Goetsch