BWW Review: MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN at Kansas City Actors Theatre

The characters in Eugene O'Neil's "Moon For The Misbegotten," now being performed by the Kansas City Actors' Theatre at Union Station, are tours de force for serious actors and serious audiences. The story, while not autobiographical, follows the life path of O'Neil's brother James. They are, in some ways, similar to the tragic heroes of William Shakespeare and the tortured souls of Tennessee Williams.

BWW Review: MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN at Kansas City Actors Theatre

Eugene O'Neil came from an actor's family cursed with a tendency toward addiction to the demon rum. One can sense the desperation in his soul. This is the sequel to the four time Pulitzer Prize winner's "Long Days' Journey Into Night." In it, he seeks to demonstrate absolution for his brother, an unsuccessful actor, with the twin problems of loose women and booze. Jim O'Neil (renamed Tyrone in both plays) drank himself to death. He was very close to his Mother (whose death was examined in the first play). He has given up drinking at the request of his mother, but has fallen off the wagon after her death. He tries to find solace in the arms of paid companions, but he is really looking for the companionship and love of a mother to a son.

"Moon For The Misbegotten" is about Jim Tyrone played here by Brian Paulette, but the opening action focuses on the Hogan family, tenant farmers in Connecticut, on probated property that will shortly go to Tyrone. The three dominant characters are Tyrone, Phil Hogan the tenant farmer (Victor Raider-Wexler) and his daughter Josie (Ashley Pankow).

Josie represents herself as a tough woman of easy virtue. Her Mom died in childbirth and so she has been the surrogate mother to her brothers, the last one of which is leaving home just as we meet her. Phil, the father, is not very successful as a farmer, but kind of a transparent schemer and a not so transparent consumer of spirits. Jim has taken a liking to the family and is not terribly concerned that they are behind in their rent. Phil is his drinking buddy. Jim is attracted to Josie although he is unclear exactly where their relationship ought to go.BWW Review: MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN at Kansas City Actors Theatre

Ashley Pankow is a powerhouse as Josie. The face she presents to the world hides the sensitive and insightful person she is. Victor Raider-Wexler is the ultimate professional and delivers the rough, scheming Dad effortlessly in his efforts to do the best her can for Josie. Brian Paulette is appropriately tortured by drink and behaviors he cannot control. We feel for him and for the resolution that O'Neil is wills him to achieve for his brother and ultimately for himself.

The play was O'Neil's last, completed in 1943. He became afflicted with Parkinson's Disease and lost the physical ability to write. Dictation did not work for him. O'Neil died in 1953. "Moon For The Misbegotten" was not produced until four years later.

The Hogan farmhouse and farm yard are well designed by Gary Mosby. Director Mark Robbins' vision of the piece is dark to be sure, but appropriate and consistently portrayed by the actors. Despite some light moments in the script, don't expect to be entertained as much as you will be affected by these people.

KC Actors' Theatre's production of "Moon For The Misbegotten" continues through September 30 at City Stage inside Union Station.

Photos courtesy of Kansas City Actors Theatre and Mike Tsai.

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From This Author Alan Portner

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