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A CurtainUp Review
A Moon for the Misbegotten


May you have your wish and die in your sleep soon, Jim, darling. May you rest forever in forgiveness and peace..— Josie
Kim Martin-Cotten (Josie Hogan) and Andrew May (James Tyrone)
(Photo credit: Photos by Jacob J. Goldberg)
The Pearl Theatre has missed some opportunities with its uninspired revival of Eugene OíNeillís classic, but problematic A Moon for the Misbegotten, which first premiered in New York City in 1957, some four years after its authorís death. The play is problematic because, while it takes place over less than 24 hours, it is long, overwrought — not to mention excruciatingly repetitive, relentlessly symbolic, and more than a tad corny. Yet, itís an important work with much going for it, not the least of which is its profound insight into the psychology of human love and loss. Thatís why itís a shame that Director J.R. Sullivan has played it so safely, almost as a museum piece.

Kim Martin-Cotten certainly looks the part of Josie Hogan, the homely and ambiguously unchaste daughter of Phil, a poor tenant farmer. Sheís large, big-boned, and has made herself peasant-like for this production. Unfortunately, her Josie is two-dimensional; she canít extricate her character from the tedium that overwhelms her due to OíNeillís hammering monotony and melodrama.

Dan Daily as Josieís often-drunk yet conniving father falls into a similar trap. Heís too much of a clown — soft and buffoonish. He isnít fearsome enough to convince us that all three of his sons have fled from servitude on his farm, in fear for their lives. Daily and dramaturg Kate Farrington canít escape the easy stereotypes and humor that will subvert Dailyís character to a contemporary audience. In their hands, Phil Hogan is merely an indulgent old lush in a worn masquerade; OíNeill, I believe, wanted him to be so much more.

I was always conscious that Daily and Martin-Cotten were acting rather than inhabiting their roles. However, I was impressed with the work of Andrew May as Jim Tyrone, Jr., the good-natured yet troubled landlord of the Hogan farm. Tyrone is an alcoholic, misogynistic, mamaís boy — a Broadway actor who reveals unsavory details about himself in drunkenness. Heíd be a train wreck in the wrong hands, but Mr. May, who strikes me as somewhat of a cross between Chris Noth and Patrick Warburton, modernizes the role, takes some chances and makes it interesting, while his compatriots Daily and Martin-Cotten get bogged down in the stereotypes of their respective characters.

Jo Winiarskiís minimalist set design perplexed me. The Hogan shanty is not fully serviceable as a set. The audience is required to imagine that walls are present when they are not. Characters retire in full view of the audience and the other actors. This could have been corrected easily by simply darkening them out, but Jaymi Lee Smithís apathetic lighting design seemed like a phone-in.

Other aspects of the stage design were also frustrating. At one point, Josie speaks of a stew on the stove. Yet, we never see the stove, or the stew. The door to the shack is surrounded by enough blank space for one to walk through. In a famous scene where Phil and Josie rough up Harder (Kern McFadden), a smug young aristocrat, Tyrone hides in Josieís room to listen and laugh at the proceedings. Yet, heís right there, in plain sight of all, and ostensibly, Harder, to see. Except that weíre not supposed to see him. Again, some imaginative lighting would have helped the illusion.

Even more puzzling was the enormous amount of dark empty staging on either side of the set which could have been utilized to great effect. Lindsay Jonesís sound designs were mostly featureless, with the faintest of bird songs to signal night and the faintest of crickets to signal the dawn of a supposedly unparalleled new day.

All in all, this production has little to recommend it. At well over three hours, it may try the patience of the most tolerant theatregoer.

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A Moon for the Misbegotten
By Eugene OíNeill
Directed by J.R. Sullivan
Cast: Kim Martin-Cotten (Josie Hogan), Sean McNall (Mike Hogan), Dan Daily (Phil Hogan), Andrew May, James Tyrone, Jr., Kern McFadden (T. Stedman Harder)
Set Design: Jo Winiarski
Costume Design: Rachel Laritz
Lighting Design: Jaymi Lee Smith
Sound Design: Lindsay Jones
Dramaturg: Kate Farrington
Fight Direction: Rod Kinter
Assistant to the Director: Ryan Krause
Production Stage Manager: Dale Smallwood
Running Time: Three hours and twenty minutes, including two intermissions
The Pearl Theatre Company,131 W. 55th St., NYC, www.pearltheatre.org
From March 6, 2012 Ė April 15, 2012; opening March 18, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.
Performance schedule : Tuesdays at 7:30pm, Wednesdays at 2:30 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
Reviewed by William Coyle, based on the March 15, 2012 performance

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