Thursday, April 5, 2007
A Moon for the Misbegotten
As most of you probably know, A Moon for the Misbegotten is not one of Eugene O'Neill's funnier plays. It's a dark study of the struggle to live, and a meditation on what it is like to love someone so inherently broken that the chances of personal redemption are non-existant. But don't expect to get any of this from the production currently playing at the Brooks Atkinson, which receives more laughs than a drawing room farce by Kaufman and Hart. Most of the problem lies in one of the most deadly cases of miscasting I've encountered in years: Kevin Spacey, considered by many as a primo O'Neill interpreter, is lost at sea in the role of Jim Tyrone. He approaches the character from an unlikely standpoint, making him more of a silly, slapstick jokester than a tragic figure with a ravaged soul. His performance is physically awkward: he flails around the stage as if he were in a Marx Brothers movie, and his histrionics distract from the wrenching story at hand. On a positive note, the production is graced by two remarkable character studies: Colm Meaney is pleasingly sly as Tyrone's tenant, Phil Hogan, and the celebrated British actress Eve Best is nothing short of a revelation as Josie. Watching Best emote, I truly believed that Josie thought she could redeem Jim with her love. It's the performance of the season, and will quite possibly go down as the definitive interpretation of the role. If only she had a capable co-star to match her step for step.