Long before movies like In the Name of the Father brought Ireland's Troubles to American screens, cinematic adaptations of Sean O'Casey's plays gave us a glimpse of Ireland's political and economic hardships. The Irish playwright, who taught himself to read and write by studying British authors like Shakespeare and Dickens, grew up in the slums of Dublin and turned his experience into material, much of it anti-British. O'Casey's “Dublin Trilogy” echoes his Irish nationalist and socialist leanings with characters who struggle against poverty, government, and the church. The first in the trilogy, The Shadow of a Gunman, premiered in 1923, and director John Ford adapted The Plough and the Stars in 1936. In 1930, Hitchcock made a film of Juno and the Paycock, the alternately funny and heartbreaking tale of the Boyle family, who live in a Dublin tenement house. Capt. Jack Boyle prefers boozing and balladeering to working; son Johnny is an injured victim of the civil war; daughter Mary tries to improve her lot by joining the labor movement and reading Ibsen. Mother Juno keeps the family running, until word of an unexpected windfall causes a sudden shift in plans. American Conservatory Theater stages the play with Robin Pearson Rose as Juno and Charles Dean as Jack; Geoff Hoyle (recently returned from the Broadway production of The Lion King) plays Jack's sidekick, Joxer Daly. The show previews at 8 p.m. Friday (and runs through Feb. 7) at the Geary Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), S.F. Admission is $11-55; call 749-2228. (H.W.)
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