Directed by Kevin Theis
Produced by Seanachai Theatre Company
At the Irish-American Heritage Center, Chicago
Hilarious yet poignant tale of loneliness and passion propels O’ Neill’s classic
Seanachai (Gaelic for storyteller) Theatre Company specializes in modern Irish works and their latest, A Moon For The Misbegotten, is a sequel to the autobiographical Long Day’s Journey into Night. It was O’ Neill’s last play (written in 1947). It is a tale of humor, vulnerability and passion, as two lonely souls find a window of happiness in the moonlight, and approach the coming dawn with hope and apprehension.
Set in a Connecticut farm in 1923, the work concentrates on Joise ( Carolyn Klein), a touch-as-nails, outspoken farm girl with a soiled reputation and a quick temper. Her father, Phil Hogan (Brad Armacost) is the hard-drinking, conniving con-man tenant farmer who’d rather scheme over moonshine than farm. Then there is James Tyrone, Jr. (Steve Pickering), Hogan’s landlord, drinking companion who is a cynical drunk fixated by guilt after his mother’s death.
The play opens on the terrific set depicting a run-down farm (set design by Ira Amyx & Merje Veski) as young Mike Hogan (Andrew Nowack) desperately departs the stagnation and wrath of his drunken father. Josie helps the lad depart just like her other two brothers years ago.
We meet Phil Hogan as he and his daughter exchange the blarney, argue and plot as the events of Phil’s last drinking session with James Tyrone, Jr. slowly emerge from the lively banter. This opening scene between Joise and Phil is hilarious, poetically smart and ever so-Irish in that we discover that Josie and Phil have a love-hate but mutual respect as their common plight emerges. Phil eventually explains that James, while drunk, has threatened to sell the farm to the hated rich neighbor Harden (Stuart Ritter).
This threat sets off a Joise-Phil plot to use James and Josie’s mutual attraction to thwart the threat to their homestead. The result is one hilarious scene after another that eventually turns melancholy and poignant as hearts are opened as truth wins out over manipulation and drunken assertions.
Three amazing performances dominate: Carolyn Klein’s strong, often intimidating, portrait of Joise hides her loneliness and heart. Brad Armacost, always fantastic playing Irishmen, is at a new level as he present a most authentic performance as the hard-drinking farmer. Combining a rich Irish brogue with hilarious physical drunken movements, Armacost plays Phil in a richly deep and thoroughly honest performance that is one of the finest I’ve seen on stage in many a moon. Brad Armacost is a Chicago treasure!
Steve Pickering presents James Tyrone, Jr., first as a hard-drinking actor/playboy, then once he is alone and courting Josie, Pickering most effectively comes clean about the demons from the events of his mother’s death that become his self-destruction. Pickering’s final scene is one of the most sadly truthfully played scenes you’ll ever see.
This funny yet emotionally wrenching work vividly demonstrates the evil effects of isolation, alcohol, and denied passion on real people. First you’ll laugh at the foibles of the Hogan’s, then you’ll empathize with the pain for Josie and James. But ultimately, you’ll enjoy your journey with O’Neill’s real folks. Klein, Armacost and Pickering give the most electrifying performances you’ll see on stage. They were simply overpowering with truth. Don’t miss this riveting production. You’ll see three master actors at the top of their craft deftly delivering the words of a master playwright.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: March 24, 2012
For more info checkout the A Moon For The Misbegotten page on theatreinchicago.com
At the Irish-American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox, Chicago, IL