Saturday, March 23, 2002

Moon for the Misbegottten (Great Lakes Theatre Festival)

Moon for the Misbegotten a must see at GLTF

Eugene O’Neill is the only American ever to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. His writing raised American dramatic theater from frothy escapism to meaningful messages. Ironically, both the Great Lakes Theatre Festival and Cleveland Public Theatre have chosen to present O’Neill plays simultaneously. The plays and productions are quite different.

O’Neill’s works spanned the genres of realism and expressionism. 'MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN,' the script Great Lakes Theatre Festival chose to produce is one of his realistic plays and considered to be his finest work.

GLTF has wisely decided to edit and shorten the autobiographical play which concerns the ill-fated love affair between the guilt-ridden and alcoholic Jamie (modeled on O’Neill’s real life brother) and Josie, a shy woman who hides her real feelings by feigning to be something she is not. The play paints life in harsh colors with an overstroke of light as represented by underlying love and respect of father toward daughter and the brilliance of sunrises.

The production, under the able direction of James Bundy, works extremely well. He shows an understanding of the script, its message and how to get the meaning across.

Vincent Dowling, the former Artistic Director of GLTF, returns to portray Phil Hogan, the drunken lout of a father. He is, as the script describes, “As spry as a yearling and nasty as a wasp.” His performance is acting at its finest. Derdriu Ring, who does not physically fit the supposedly physically unattractive large boned daughter, none-the-less overcomes that by emotionally fleshing out the role. Sean Haberle has some shallow moments as Jamie but generally is convincing.

John Ezell’s set design is wonderfully realistic and Matthew Frey’s lighting helps develop the proper moods.

Capsule judgement: GLTF’S 'MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN' is O’Neill at its finest! The production has been honed to perfectly develop the drama, pathos and humor of the script. This is a must see for any real theatre-lover!