Eugene O’Neill’s classic drama A Moon For The Misbegotten comes to Greenbelt Arts Center to close out the 2012/2013 season. An emotionally charged drama that explores the lives of three very different individuals under one night of moonlight where truths will be revealed about everyone. Josie, a rough around the edges farm girl is convinced that no man could ever want her, so she concocts herself a harlot’s reputation while James Tyrone, haunted by the death of his mother, has drowned himself so deep in the bottle he’s taken to bedding ladies of the night frequently. Top this off with Josie’s father, Phil, who is a scheming meddlesome drunk that intends to bring both Josie and James together to serve his own purposes and you have an evening of revelations all beneath the beams of a early September Connecticut moon. Directed by Eliot Malumuth, this classic is a fitting end to the GAC season.
Doubling up as the show’s Costume and Set Designer, Director Eliot Malumuth gets all the gritty details in place for the impoverished farmhouse of the Hogan family. With a derelict looking shack of a home painted in that gritty faded brown, the place looks as rough and weathered as Josie’s attitude. Malumuth paints the floor in a grody brown to emulate the dusty grout of the homestead’s front porch. Josie’s faded gingham dress make her look every bit the weary and coarse farmer’s daughter she’s played up to be and the polished and posh riding clothes reserved for Steadman clearly accentuate the difference between the upper class and those of the working class.
Malumuth struggles to keep the scenes tight. There are awkward pregnant pauses, particularly at the beginning of Act II where Jim is going through the woes and strife of his life in confession, that send the performance grinding to a halt. These pauses feel unnatural, stifle the overall momentum of the scene, and disrupt the emotional builds that occurring between Josie and Jim during that discourse.
Phil (Bill Brekke) carries some of the most interesting lines in the production, unfortunately you never hear them because Brekke is extremely soft spoken and when he speaks he trails off into silence. Described as a hot-tempered soused old goat, Brekke plays the character with little emotion and is extremely mild mannered. There is no distinguishable difference between his raging drunk moments and his more melancholic semi-sober scenes. Brekke does make an attempt to uphold the Irish accent, which he fades in and out of, creating a semblance of character consistency with Josie and Mike.
James (Bob Kleinberg) has a good handle on how to physicalized his delirium tremens, from the unsteady gait to the shaking in his hands his performance as an alcoholic is particularly believable. His confessions to Josie during Act II are particularly heartfelt, welling up from a dark place inside of him that his character has kept locked away for quite some time. As he comes to grips with his sorrows, Kleinberg’s vocal expressions are on the verge of violent, making for a compelling performance.
Tim Slack, featured briefly as the last of the Hogan brothers to leave home and then again as the haughty Steadman Harder, steals the show for the brief moments he appears on the stage. With a thick Irish brogue as Mike, Slack finds himself spunky and ready to escape the trials of living on the farm with his drunken father and wayward sister. Switching in a blink to the reserved and aristocratic Steadman, his facial expressions are extremely emotive when being threatened by Phil. Slack makes for an impressive set of cameos in this production.
Carrying the show on her shoulders is Pamela Northrup as Josie. Her Irish accent is perfectly focused and never falters throughout the duration of the production. The harsh exterior that Northrup constructs around her character’s much more vulnerable interior is an impressive example of character layering. The coarseness of her character is held rigidly in both her physicality and her outlandish manner of speaking, but Northrup gives a drastic shift in the second act, her entire persona mellowing and melting into Josie’s true inner self; a vulnerable weak and terribly sensitive and naïve creature. Northrup’s clear understanding of O’Neill’s dusty dry humor is displayed in her flawless execution of her sarcastic wit and well placed one-liners. Northrup gives a sensational performance that truly makes the show a success.
Running Time: Approximately three hours, with one intermission.