More Melancholy Than Ten Hamlets is Pretty Damn Melancholy

Early in A Moon for the Misbegotten, Josie Hogan (Kim Marten-Cotten) describes the love of her life, Jim Tyrone (Andrew May), as “like a dead man walking slow behind his own coffin.”  This march towards the inevitable seems to make up the entire play, which follows characters who are obsessed with helping each other and end up helping no one.  Jim, the Hogans’ landlord and an old Broadway ham, slowly drinks himself to death instead of wedding Josie, while her wily father Phil (Dan Daily) tries to play puppet master and orchestrate the marriage that would benefit all three.  As Eugene O’Neill’s swan song, A Moon for the Misbegotten unifies the writer’s most important artistic concerns while also incorporating some of his bad habits—at nearly three and a half hours, we wish this whiskey-soaked night could be a little more succinct.

Still, director J.R. Sullivan and his cast have done a fine job.  They manage to accent the humor in the script (no small feat), making its tragedies all the more affecting and its length all the more bearable.  Ms. Marten-Cotten, though not ugly enough to play Josie—she is written as “a big, rough, ugly cow of a woman”—is entirely charming.  In her lighter moments she hops around the stage like six-foot tall Irish Puck.  Mr. Daily is also quite good, and his rapport with his daughter is one of the more enjoyable aspects of the play.  I do wish Sean McNall, who was an excellent Richard II, could have been given a meatier part; as Josie’s dogmatic brother Mike, he only gets a few minutes onstage.

Apparently kissing Jim Tyrone is “like kissing a corpse.”  Well, watching A Moon for the Misbegotten is like seeing that corpse in its final hours before it turns cold.  Proceed accordingly.

A Moon for the Misbegotten runs through April 15th at the Pearl Theatre.  131 W. 55th Street  New York, NY.

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