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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Brooks Atkinson, New York

By Roger B. Harris

  Eve Best and Kevin Spacey/Photo: Simon Annand

Call me lucky... to have seen the 1973 restoration of A Moon for the Misbegotten (Eugene O'Neill's last completed work), which starred Jason Robards and Colleen Dewhurst, in memorable performances as the doomed alcoholic James Tyrone and the love-starved Josie Hogan. And Ed Flanders was no slouch as Mike Hogan, Josie's conniving, liquor-laced dad. Adding to the mistiness of the memory was the performing hall, namely the soon-to-be-destroyed Morosco Theater. (Coincidentally, the 1957 version of the play, which starred Franchot Tone and Wendy Hiller, yes Franchot Tone and Wendy...played at the Bijou, also to be demolished by the wrecking ball, when the Morosco and the Helen Hayes came down.)

But, to the revival at hand. This one stars Kevin Spacey and Eve Best, in a carbon-copy transfer of the production, which recently graced London's Old Vic Theatre, where Spacey resides as Artistic Director. Howard Davies, who directed the London revival, oversees the New York one, too. Spacey is no stranger to the ways of O'Neill. He won acclaim for his performance as Hickey in O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh, eight years ago.

Here the acclaim will be more muted. For Spacey, a masterful technician of the acting craft , who seemingly can do anything on stage, opts for easy emotionally light readings, textbook renditions of alcoholic stumblings and bumblings, furious diatribes and riffs-his speech hurried along at breakneck speed. The result: Whatever inner self-loathing and disgust he's trying to convey is found mostly wanting.

As for Best, at first glance, she seems too dainty to play the earth mother figure--"so oversize that she is almost a freak,"-- O'Neill envisioned when he created the role of Josie Hogan. " Nor, is she "a big ugly hulk," or "big ugly cow," as she describes herself. But then again, the most recent Josie's (Cherry Jones and Kate Nelligan, and further back Wendy Hiller) were lacking in that that overwhelming stature, too. Best's performance though is large-sized. There is an emotional honesty in the way her Josie engages Tyrone, every step of the way on their trip, that fateful night in the moonlight, from blinding self-illusion(or is it delusion) to a clear reality of who they both really are--and where they are going.

For an O'Neill work, A Moon for the Misbegotten, is surprisingly funny ( outside of Ah Wilderness!, O'Neill never wrote a light-hearted play). There's a steady stream of Irish humor and insults between Tyrone and Phil Hogan, Josie's father, expertly played by the scene-stealing Colm Meaney. Eugene O'Hare as Josie's brother and Billy Carter, as the owner of the farm next door, complete the cast. Bob Crowley's set consisting of a working water pump and a tilted shack, is appropriately bleak; Lynette Mauro's costumes are appropriately shabby.

And for a few glorious moonlit moments, O'Neill's words approach the level of poetry--of love lost and found, between two souls,who expect so little of the world and are usually not disappointed by it.




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