By Eugene O’Neill
Directed by Alison C. Vesely, SSDC
Produced by First Folio Theatre
At Mayslake Peabody Estate
Fabulous acting does O’Neill classic justice.
First Folio Theatre in Oak Brook continues mounting outstanding theatre and their latest is a most worthy mounting of Eugene O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten. The intimacy of First Folio’s indoor stage (nice set by Angela Miller) at the Mayslake Peabody Estate serves the production well. A Moon for the Misbegotten is the story of Josie Hogan (Erin Noel Grennan in a tremendous performance)—an ungainly daughter of an impoverished sharecropper whose love for alcoholic Jim Tyrone (Christian Gray in his finest performance to date) comes to ahead one long summer night.
In act one, we witness a terrified Mike Hogan (Patrick Halley) as his sister Josie helps him run away from the Connecticut farm and his tyrannical father, Phil Hogan (Larry Nuemann, Jr. in a fabulously funny turn). These early scenes establish the unique relationship between the feisty, strong-willed Josie and her hard working and hard drinking, scheming Irish father. O’Neill was never as funny as these interactions between Phil and Josie. Grennan and Neumann have a powerful stage chemistry that turns their arguments into dark humor. Josie loves the drunkard Jim Tyrone—the Hogan’s landlord who comes to visit and have word games with his friend Phil while plotting mischief with their neighbor Harder (Ehren Fournier). Sharing moonshine, the two men plot some fun while Josie plots to get Jim into her bed.
Act two turns into an emotionally passionate story of love and redemption as Jim and Josie share a few drinks while Jim tells her the source of his guilt that finds him drowning his sorrow in alcohol. Christian Gray and Erin Noel Grennan produce deep-seeded emotions and sparks of pure lust as the effects of loneliness, guilt, longing, love, and sex are amplified through drink and personal desperation. Jim loves Jose but fears he’ll destroy her innocence due to his drunkenly fits of rage. We see the tragic outcome where the gulf between them will not allow them to stay together. We see the how pain and laughter tugs at their hearts. We empathize with Josie and Jim’s dilemma.
Filled with O’Neill’s poetic language spoken in Irish dialects, A Moon for the Misbegotten is a powerful and emotionally draining tragedy that saddens us deeply. This is a great play, masterfully directed by Alison C. Vesely, with three of the finest performances by Larry Neumann, Jr., Erin Noel Grennan and Christian Gray—that I’ve seen on stage in Chicago in many a moon! O’Neill would be proud of this production. It is one of the finest shows of 2009!
At Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st Street & RT. 83, Oak Brook, IL, www.firstfolio.org, tickets $28 – $30, Wednesdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 45 minutes with intermission.