This is the first in a series of blog posts by director Adam Cunningham. Check in weekly for updates – and, by all means, come and see A Moon for the Misbegotten in October!
I can’t believe we’ve already been in rehearsals for almost three weeks. Good things are happening.
I first read this play about three years ago. Immediately, it grabbed me by the metaphorical lapels and shook me. O’Neill believed that life was inherently tragic, but that beauty – man’s noble attempt to carve joyous order out of malevolent chaos – endowed our common struggle with meaning. In this play, situated on a small, hardscrabble tenant farm in Connecticut in 1923, we see that duality laid out like a rich tapestry unfurled before us.
Jim Tyrone is a hopeless alcoholic, undermined by self-loathing shame, and hollowed out by two decades wasted cozying up to the bottle and cheap women. Josie, the bulwark of the tenant farm, is his friend, who, despite her naive infatuation for him, recognizes the poetic soul within the corroded edifice of Jim’s failing body. An unlikely love interest, Josie is, as written by O’Neill, an unattractive, oversized hulk of a woman, as far from the petite tarts Jim usually runs with as her irascible, hard-drinking Irish father, Phil, is from the nouveau riche protestant snobs that live on an estate nearby.
Circumstances bring Jim and Josie together in one of the tenderest – and most harrowing – love scenes ever written. It is during this transformative night, under an ambiguously incandescent full moon, that Jim finds the forgiveness he so desperately needs, and Josie discovers the bottomless depth of her true beauty.
This play is a precious, multifaceted diamond fashioned out of the prosaic carbon of base human existence both by O’Neill’s artistry and the aspirations of the human soul.
It is a great pleasure to be working with the actors in this play:
Kevin Cahoon plays Mike, Josie’s younger brother, who escapes the tyranny of the farm to chase the illusion of freedom;
Lauren Patterson plays Josie, the sensitive, poetic soul trapped (she thinks) in an odious body, forever fated to feign sexual promiscuity in order to hide her virginity, which has been frozen in the amber of fear that she is too disgusting to ever be loved, but who loves Jim unconditionally – first with a school girl’s innocence, but later, with the wisdom of a mature and beautiful woman.
Frank Kehoe plays Phil, Josie’s scheming, mischievous, combative, hard-drinking father, a proud Irishman who, in his youth, fled his native land’s poverty to carve out a meager existence on this small, rocky piece of earth. Phil uses his stereotypical Irish behavior to mask a surprisingly tender love for Josie.
Devon M. Ewalt plays Jim, the tortured, alcoholic, fifth-rate actor who has never been able to escape his shame – a profound and debilitating self-loathing that was imposed on him early and led to his flight to the illusory comfort of bourbon, which only serves to rot his body even as it fuels more self-loathing. A lost soul who lives in a black hole of nihilism, Jim desperately needs forgiveness so that he can die in peace. He loves Josie more than he knows, and his natural, life-affirming stirrings draw him further toward her light – and the light of salvation.
Ethan Alsruhe plays T. Stedman Harder, the heir to a fortune and owner of the lavish estate that butts against the Hogans’ shard of rocky land. Harder is mortified to be living so close to white trash, and, when Phil’s pigs invade Harder’s ice pond, Harder confronts the Hogans in order to reclaim his property – and to affirm his place in the social hierarchy that Phil Hogan so contemptuously disdains.