A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN (Walnut): 60-second review

Angela Smith and Michael P. Toner in A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN. Photo by Mark Garvin.

Angela Smith and Michael P. Toner in A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN. Photo by Mark Garvin.

Eugene O’Neill’s tragic masterpiece takes place over the course of one day and a moonlit night, but his hardscrabble characters traverse a wearying orbit of downfall and redemption. As A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN opens, Josie (Angela Smith) bids farewell to Mike (Jamison Foreman), the last of her brothers to escape the mistreatment of their Irish-tempered father Phil Hogan (Michael P. Toner). Only Josie can stand up to him, but her rough talk belies a sadness as profound as that of their perpetually drunk landlord James Tyrone (Anthony Lawton). Scheming Phil hopes the misbegotten pair will confess their mutual love under the moonlight, before Jim leaves Connecticut to return to his failed career on the New York stage.

O’Neill asks us to travel with Josie and Jim beneath their personas to the roots of their loneliness. Under Kate Galvin’s direction, the Walnut’s production is more staccatoed than arced: rage and sadness come in moments rather than a steady build. Given the intimate staging of the 3rd floor space (set design by Andrew Thompson), we would expect to feel more discomfort at the psychological breakdowns onstage. Nevertheless, Lawton and Smith generate fine chemistry with believable mutual concern (although the age gap of the characters, though fairly loyal to O’Neill’s intent, seems stark) and Toner convinces as a conniving but tender-hearted old Irishman. The Walnut’s production continues on a nationwide tour after its Philadelphia run. It does enough to reveal the bones of an American classic if never quite fleshes out the potential of the enduring masterwork. 

[Walnut Street Theatre, Independence Studio on 3, 825 Walnut Street, 3rd Floor] January 12-February 7, 2016; walnutstreettheatre.org.

Additional dates and locations:

Dates Location Venue
2/9/16 New London, CT Palmer Auditorium · Connecticut College
2/10/16 Durham, NH Johnson Theater · University of New Hampshire
2/11/16 Manchester, NH Dana Center · St. Anselm College
2/12/16 Fairfield, CT Quick Center for the Arts · Fairfield University
2/13/16 Stony Brook, NY Main Theater · Staller Center · SUNY/Stony Brook
2/17/16 Jenison, MI Jenison Center for the Arts
2/18/16 West Lafayette, IN Loeb Playhouse · Purdue University
2/19/16 Notre Dame, IN Decio Theater · De Bartolo Center · University of Notre Dame
2/23/16 Aurora, NY Phipps Auditorium · Wells College
2/25/16 Wilkes Barre, PA FM Kirby Center
2/26/16 Manasquan, NJ Algonquin Arts Theater
2/28/16 Fairfax, VA GMU Center for the Arts · George Mason University
3/2/16 Richmond, VA Jepson Theater · Modlin Center · University of Richmond
3/4/16 Tryon, NC Tryon Fine Arts Center
3/5/16 Greeneville, TN Niswonger Performing Arts Center
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About the author

Christopher Munden

Your faithful correspondent and publisher Christopher Munden has written and edited for many publications, websites, and cultural institutions. He was an editor/publisher of the Philly Fiction book series, collections of short stories written by local writers and set in Philadelphia. He's also a soccer coach and a pretty good skier.