"A Moon for the Misbegotten," a tragicomedy about love, lies, and liberation plays now at Arena Stage, through June 16. The play, written my Eugene O'Neill, shows the trials of two characters, Josie Hogan and James Tyrone, Jr. as they free each other from their insecurities and destructive past. O'Neill, who is best known for his disturbing plays about dysfunctional family life, wrote "Moon" with both a sense of humor and a sense of despair, but most of all, an overwhelming surge of redemption. Director Molly Smith does justice to O'Neill's script in the powerful "A Moon for the Misbegotten."
The play begins with a beautiful, well-lit set, depicting a small shack on a rocky farm. Josie says her goodbyes to her brother, Mike, as he leaves to find his way in the world. Mike tells Josie to mend her loose ways, but Josie is proud of her independence, and refuses to change for any man. No sooner does Mike go on his way than Phil Hogan, played by Robert Hogan, appears on stage. Phil is Josie's father, and the two argue constantly, creating truly hilarious moments in the play. The two talk about their friend, James Tyrone, Jr., who is an actor. Josie refuses to admit that she is in love with James, but her father sees through her front, and schemes to get the two young lovers together. Phil's scheming has disastrous results- yet the play has a bittersweet ending that leaves the audience with a sense of satisfaction.
The highlight of "Moon" is undoubtedly the outstanding performance by Robert Hogan, as Phil Hogan, the cantankerous, scheming father. He carries the comedic aspects of the play by himself, using incredible comedic timing and a proclivity for slapstick humor. The weakness, perhaps, lies in its wordiness, which slows the play down a bit in the second act.
The play has strong themes of death, illusion, and forgiveness. Even the first act, which is mainly comedic, alludes to death repeatedly. James has a haunted air about him, which hints at his hidden persona. Both Josie and James have deceptive fronts that are torn down later in the play. The two lost souls find each other and come to understand and forgive each other's faults and lies. "Moon" is a play for those who love drama. The humor will entertain you, and the tragedy floor you. Arena Stage keeps its reputation with another stunning rendition of a difficult play.