note: entire contents copyright 2010 by Sheila Barth
. Regardless of the fact that Eugene O’Neill wrote “A Moon for the Misbegotten” in 1943, and set it in rural Connecticut in September 1923, Director Richard McElvain has gathered such a powerful cast and crew, that every minute of this three-hour masterpiece is a timely work of art.
The audience was awestricken, in silent admiration, throughout the production. Every detail, every nuance, is perfection, a realistic mirror of people who are down on their luck and pull every deal, swindle, and stunt for survival - well, partially for the fun of it, too - especially with this Irish father-daughter duo. They delight in making their rich neighbors, (who are thriving in a downturned economy), squirm, by turning the tables on them.
Actor Billy Meleady as incorrigible, hard-drinkin‘ Phil Hogan is superb. For a little, wiry guy, he swaggers - and stumbles - with the best of ‘em, laughing and knee-slapping when he pulls swindling shenanigans, like selling a near-dead cow to an unsuspecting buyer. And when he and his Viking-size daughter Josie team up, all hell breaks loose, especially when their neighbor T. Stedman Harder, (Wayne Fritsche) of Standard Oil mega-wealth, comes by all gussied up in his horseback riding gear, to complain about the Hogans’ pigs breaking his fence and getting into his ice pond.
The confrontational scene between the aristocrat and these bounders is priceless. Meleady struts around, spouting off, laying a timely kick here and there on Harder’s sophisticated torso, while Josie adds her own touches to this fiasco, while accusing Harder of cutting the fence.
Although Eugene O’Neill is the only American playwright to have won the Nobel Prize for Literature (in 1936), his soulful dramas of human nature which are sometimes autobiographically based, remain relative today. Punctuating O’Neill’s masterpiece, multi-award winning actress Ramona Lisa Alexander delivers a gut-wrenching, heart-rending, sterling portrayal as Josie. She has total command of her character. Her impeccable timing, athletic prowess, physical strength, and uncanny shift from foul-mouthed, tough girl to a woman in love, with a protective madonna image, is astounding.
Although Josie has a salty tongue, she’s self-deprecating, convinced that no man could ever love her. “I’m a big, ugly hunk of a woman,” she says. However, her objet d’amour, alcoholic actor-landowner, Jim Tyrone, says she’s beautiful and pure. Powerfully portrayed by Boston actor Will McGarrahan, Tyrone is based on O’Neill’s brother, Jamie, in this sequel to his magnificent autobiographical play, “Long Day’s Journey into Night”.
Talented Luke Murtha rounds out the cast as Josie’s righteous younger brother, Mike.
As Josie cradles her psychologically wounded lover in her arms throughout the night, after he declares he loves her and reveals his inner ghosts and demons that haunt him, designer Margo Caddell beams soft moonlit hues on the pair, then bathes them in yellow, representing dawn’s early glow.
After her performance, Alexander said she created Josie in the image of her beloved grandmother, a Portuguese immigrant from the Azores, who looked and sounded stern, but whose love for her family belied her austere demeanor.
Anthony R. Phelps’ set is a realistic re-creation of a poor farm, with its dilapidated wooden shack, ramshackle porch and boulder-laden fields; and Gail Astrid Buckley’s costumes finely separate the characters’ social classes.
BOX INFO: Two-act play by Eugene O’Neill, directed by Richard McElvain, appearing through November 7 at the Nora Theater,Central Square Theater, 450 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, Wednesday, Thursday, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.; no evening performance Nov. 3. Check for post-show events, Oct. 21,28. Tickets are $40; seniors, $30; students with college ID, $25. Call 866-811-4111 or visit www.centralsquaretheater.org