Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
A Moon for the Misbegotten is staged on a fine set designed by Emily Nichols, which represents the porch and yard of the Hogan family, with effective lighting design by Christopher Bell. The moon has a transcendent power in this play and this production allows the audience to feel just how magical a night can seem between two lost souls trying to make a connection.
When the play opens, the audience sees Elise Hudson as Josie Hogan, a tall, almost gangly figure, tending to the farm. It is immediately apparent that this is a woman who can stand up to just about anyone. Still, there is a vulnerability within her, just under the surface, that can heartbreaking. In the first scene, she is helping her brother Mike (nicely played by Michael Hinton) escape from the farm and, more specifically, from the hold their father has on both of them.
Conan McCarty is Phil HOgan, the wily patriarch of the family and a bit of a tyrant, as well as, at times, almost a figure of fun. Liquor flows freely in A Moon for the Misbegotten and there is much talk about Phil visiting the local bar frequently. He is joined there by James Tyrone, Jr., played by Anthony Marble; James is also the landlord of the home that Josie and Phil live in. The attraction between James and Josie, played by Elise Hudson, is almost palpable, no matter how much the two characters deny that anything could truly happen between them.
It is in those scenes, when Josie and James are alone together under the moonlight, that this production is most effective. Anthony Marble is a master at playing an alcoholic and he believably appears heavily intoxicated when James visits Josie at a late hour. Director Joseph Discher does an expert job of directing these intimate scenes and he elicits beautiful performances from his two actors. One can almost see the layers being peeled away as Josie slowly lets down her guard and gradually accepts James into her embrace.
There is almost a transformative radiance that comes from the stage as James and Josie open up to each other. Elise Hudson plays Josie as a woman with a strong temper and a stronger spirit, and she is brilliant at revealing Josie's tenderness just beneath the surface. These performers are so good that their time together onstage almost feels life-changing.
Of course, it is to the credit of Eugene O'Neill's writing that A Moon for the Misbegotten is so illuminating. But, without fine actors to breathe life into his characters and a sensitive director at the helm, this play would never work as well as it does here. See this stirring presentation to bask in the hypnotic glow of the play and the performances of Elise Hudson and Anthony Marble.
A Moon for the Misbegotten continues performances at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford, CT through March 5, 2017. For tickets, please visit www.playhouseonpark.org or call the box office at 860-523-5900.