A Moon For The Misbegotten

By Eugene O’NeillA Moon For The Misbegotten

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.

A Moon For The Misbegotten

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.

A Moon For The Misbegotten - brad armacost

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.

A Moon For The Misbegotten

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).

A Moon For The Misbegotten Carolyb Klein & Steve Pickering

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!

A Moon For The Misbegotten

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.

A Moon For The Misbegotten

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.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: March 24, 2012

Jeff Recommended

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, www.seanachai.org, tickets $26 – $30, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through April 29, 2012