BWW Review: A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN at Playhouse On Park
A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN, which was O'Neill's last play, one that he struggled to finish before losing the ability to write, is an emotional and raw look at life on a Connecticut homestead in 1923. Conniving and scheming Irish immigrant Phil Hogan (Conan McCarty) tends The Farm with his brash and bold daughter Josie (Elise Hudson) while their landlord, actor Jim Tyrone (Anthony Marble) drinks his way into oblivion. Jim has inherited The Farm from his late father and mother and is awaiting final closure of the estate before he can return to his previous life as a New York actor. While he and Phil trade barbs and jokes, Josie presents a tough and worldly exterior, though buried underneath may be secret innocence and true feelings for Jim. Over the course of the almost three hour play, audiences see how intertwined these lives have become, how schemes within schemes lead to revelations, and how the moon, and forgiveness, can change everything.
As a play with three main characters (we see two others - Mike Hogan played adeptly by Michae l Hinton and T. Stedman Harder played by Thomas Royce Daniels with righteous indignation, only briefly), A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN is truly a study of the human condition. As scrappy and scurrilous Phil Hogan, Mr. McCarty is gruff, but loveable, and though cantankerous, shows a true and deep love for his daughter, though in unconventional ways. Mr. Marble's Jim Tyrone is nuanced, tortured, and brilliant. His battles with his inner demons (or the "heebie jeebies" as he calls them) feel real and powerful, and his scenes with Ms. Hudson are one moment touching and the next heart-wrenching. Ms. Hudson as Josie Hogan shines in her role as confidant and co-conspirator with her father, as antagonist to unsuspecting Mr. Harder, and as caring older sister to Mike, helping him escape the bonds of The Farm. But it is in her emotionally charged scenes with Mr. Marble that she truly shines. Act Three is basically a roller coaster of emotion where layer upon layer of regret, sorrow, and love are laid bare and we see Josie, through Ms. Hudson's emotional delivery revealed bit by bit, until, with the dawn, we finally understand who this enigmatic woman may truly be.
The production as a whole is almost flawless. Though three hours is on the longer side for a play like this, the time flies by, with the audience mesmerized by O'Neill's brilliant and poetic dialogue so adeptly delivered by this excellent cast. Director Joseph Discher has utilized the simple setting quite well, staging the many energetic interchanges in a way that each seems fresh. Emily Nichols' homestead set is picture perfect, and I particularly liked the way strategic openings in the structure were used to show depth without losing the backdrop of the Hogan household. Christopher Bell's lighting set the perfect mood, especially in act two and three, where the moon of the title made its presence known. Collette Benoit's costumes fit the period well and Joel Abbott's sound design added the right environmental touches.
All in all, Playhouse on Park's A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN is a brilliant piece of theater, and one that even someone unfamiliar with O'Neill's body of work should take in. It is a study of regret, of human emotion, of grief and of love and so adeptly achieves what good theater strives for - connection, emotion and transformation.
A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN runs at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford, CT through March 5th. For more information, call 860-523-5900 ext. 10 or visit www.PlayhouseOnPark.org. Playhouse on Park is located at 244 Park Road, West Hartford, CT 06119