Saturday February 24th 2018

“A Moon For The Misbegotten”

Doing the work of a master playwright  such as Eugene O’Neill, is not for every theater. In fact, until Writers built their new stage, they had never attempted to do one of his plays. Now, with the new stage area and the dreams of Director William Brown, they have taken on one of O’Neill’s deepest explorations of humanity, which even though the story takes place in the 1920’s, could easily transfer to the people of today (except without the electronics). “A Moon For The Misbegotten” is in many ways a love story, and while it is close to three hours in length, with two intermissions, feels much shorter.

Part of the movement of this piece is the excellent cast and the smooth direction/story-telling put on the stage by Brown, who one can see looks deep into the mindset of the playwright and the times. The story takes place in rural Connecticut in the 1920’s ( close to 100 years ago) as we meet the Hogan family. They are farmers, renting the land they work in hopes of one day finding a way to purchase the land and barnlike house from the  Tyrone family. Phil Hogan ( the always reliable A.C. Smith) is a hard- working – hard -drinking man. The Hogan’s have very little money, working the land as best they can and living from the land and what they can sell off to neighbors. His children have left the farm to get away from the life he has given them, living in a world that was not ready for them and during the very first scene, the last of his sons, Mike ( Cage Sebastian Pierre) is doing what the others before him have done, leave. The only remaining child is his daughter, Josie ( the incredible Bethany Thomas-more about her to follow), who is larger than life and does the work of many including the cooking, sewing, laundry and farming.

It turns out that their landlord, James Tyrone, Jr ( deftly handled by Jim DeVita), after losing his mother, now owns the property and over the years had promised Phil, he would work out a pay-as-you-go program. James is also a drinker and a lover of women. While he has his New York showgirls, he has a strange desire for Josie (the forbidden fruit, so to speak) and a great deal of the story deals with the relationship between these two. There is a neighbor, T. Stedman Harder ( Erik Parks) who is not liked by the Hogan’s and we learn has intentions of buying their farm for himself, thus depriving them of the future they had waited for.

Not wanting to give away any of the sub-plots and nuances, I will tell you that there is a scene when Josie and Phil pretty much scare Harder off the property, but later learn that because of this incident, he is prepared to pay even more for the farm, just to get rid of these low-class neighbors. I will also tell you that during a lovesick, drunk night, we learn more about Josie and her relationship with James Tyrone Jr.. Are they really in love? Or is it lust? Or is it, in fact, just two lonely shattered people searching for the warmth and love they feel they need to go on? Have these two lonely souls kept their inner feelings a secret to be unleashed by this moonlit night under the sky?

The design team has transformed the Nichols Theater into a dirt farm of the 1920’s with great ease. Todd Rosenthal’s set is amazing and the cottage/house very realistic. Rachel Anne Healy’s costumes are “on”, even to the shoes of the period. The lighting (Jesse Klug) and sound (Andrew Hansen) perfect in every way and the props by Scott Dickens are just what one might expect. The violence and intimacy director ( these are extra special terms for specific parts of a play) Elizabeth Laidlaw keeps both factors under control, and the casting director, Geoff Button, could not have selected a better cast than this one ( I see Jeff nominations, for sure). Mr. DeVita is brilliant as is Mr. Smith, but Ms Thomas “blew me away”. We have all seen her in musicals and onstage doing concerts for theater companies, but I for one, was unaware that she had the “something special” needed to pull off something this powerful and dramatic. Not only did she pull it off, she brought O’Neill to a new standard. DO NOT MISS THIS PERFORMANCE!

A note: James Tyrone Jr. is based on Eugene O’Neill’s brother, Jamie and this play is in fact a sequel to O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” when his brother was a little younger, and even more of a drinker.

“A Moon For The Misbegotten” will continue at Writers Theatre located  at 325 Tudor Court in Glencoe through March 18th ( I hope they can extend so more of you can have this experience) with performances as follows:

Tuesdays  7:30 p.m.

Wednesdays  7:30 p.m.

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  7:30 p.m.

Saturdays  3 and 7:30 p.m.

Sundays  2  and 6 p.m.

Tickets range from $35-$80 and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 847-242-6000 or online at www.writerstheatre.org

Parking is available on the street ( free) and at the train station, also free and in fact, the train station is walking distance, so even you city dwellers can make the trip- if you love O’Neill, you will LOVE this production!

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “A Moon For The Misbegotten”

 

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