Eugene O’Neil’s "Moon for the Misbegotten" opened this past weekend in IU’s Wells-Metz Theatre. Steve Decker is the director for this intimate and intricate play about the love, guilt and redemption in the web of life’s energy and endurance.
The Hogans are poor Irish farmers barely making it on a rented piece of poor farm land in Connecticut. The father, widower Phil Hogan, played by Chris Nelson, has driven off two of his sons with the hard life and his hard ways. The older two left and are a policeman and a bar tender. At the play’s beginning the youngest, played by David Sheehan, is leaving for the priesthood. The only child tough enough to endure and even enjoy the hard life and energetic combat is the daughter Josie, played by Sheila Regan.
Chris Nelson and Sheila Regan are quite a pair as the father and daughter of the Hogans. They are Irish eloquent and combative to the core. With each dishing it out as well as they take it. In one scene, they gang up on Mathew Zaradich, starchily playing the local wealthy uppity-up. The Hogans totally overwhelm and befuddle him in a set of speeches and by play that would make the Marx Brothers heads swim.
James Tyrone, played by Ira Amyx, is a family friend. Jamie is sitting it out in the country waiting for a much needed legacy to be probated. He’s a third rate actor, and a second rate chaser after whores. He’s also a first rate drunk, but a heck of an eloquent one. Jamie is guilt ridden about his own love for his mother. O’Neil has a fine time with the schemes within schemes of the wily Hogans to unfold a fascinating plot that opens up and salves this wound.
"Moon for the Misbegotten" has some wonderful language in it. The Hogan’s combative banter is full blooded, often very funny and eloquent. Sheila Regan and Chris Nelson did a fine job. However, especially for Ira Amyx’s Jamie, O’Neil sometimes, and only sometimes, stretches the speeches into soliloquies that are just too long.
In a single wild night under that moon, the drunken Jamie talks himself out. Josie at first thinking that romantic love or even just physical love may be the bond between them realizes that her role is to be his Madonna, the all-forgiving virgin mother. In the morning Jamie’s mind has forgotten the night, but his spirit remembers and is lightened Josie takes her pride in this as it redeems her own life and its meaning as well.
The IU production is nicely mounted and presented. Design is by Andrew Elliott. Everyone does a more than credible job. Sheila Regan, whether she is ready to bare-knuckle it, to give as good as she gets in a verbal duel or to range in woman hood from a shy insecure girl to a compassionate and full motherly figure simply glows.
The IU Theatre’s production of Eugene O’Neil’s "Moon for the Misbegotten" plays through Saturday.