Backstage: ‘A Moon for the Misbegotten’

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(Host) Eugene O’Neill’s final play is being produced at the Adamant Music School.

“A Moon for The Misbegotten” is considered by many to be a sequel to O’Neill’s highly autobiographical “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”.

VPR’s Neal Charnoff goes Backstage at Quarryworks.

(Charnoff) “Moon for the Misbegotten” takes place in prohibition-era Connecticut.

James Tyrone Jr. returns from the world of Broadway to visit the Hogans, who are tenants on his family farm.

He brings good news about the disposition of the farm, but also harbors what he thinks is romantic attraction to Josie Hogan.

But Tyrone, recently orphaned, is under the spell of alcoholism, and the play follows a descent into miscommunication and deception.

In this scene, Tyrone sits on the porch with Josie Hogan and her father Phil, playing their old game of who will pour the first drink.

[lines rehearsed in background]

Tom Stevens is directing “Moon for the Misbegotten”.

According to Stevens, Eugene O’Neill introduced psychological complexities that were new to American theatergoers.

(Stevens) “What we would know most about O’Neill or what we would probably remember most about O’Neill is that he was in the first half of the century the preeminent New American playwright. From him sprang Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, and later on David Mamet, and people like that. They were going toward a very emotional playwrighting style, as opposed to pure showmanship.”

(Charnoff) Bill Pelton of Montpelier plays James Tyrone Jr. The role is widely believed to be based on Eugene O’Neill’s brother, who died shortly after the play was written.

Pelton says that “Moon For the Misbegotten” is, at heart, a love story.

(Pelton) “Not necessarily a romantic love story, but the different kinds of love. Going beneath the words that each of us are saying to each other, to try and find out what is really going on. I don’t know that this many years on we’re any better at knowing what we really want, and how to get it, how to ask for it, with all our courses in psychology and the sophistication of pop culture and so on and so forth, we still struggle with figuring out how do we live our daily lives.”

(Charnoff) As in many O’Neill plays, familial love is scrutinized in “Moon for the Misbegotten”. In this scene, Josie and her father, played by Carol Dawes and Russ Longton, complain about the piety of her brothers.

[Dialogue] You have the same bad luck…God forgive ’em.

(Charnoff) Director Tom Stevens says that O’Neill’s plays remain relevant because of his acute ability to capture the human condition.

(Stevens) “The emotional honesty that he is able to put into the play, and that he is able to put into each of these characters, is very clear to see, once you start pulling apart the script, and our job is to make it clear to the audience that we’re only really given one chance in life, and we need to always strive to get there. This particular play the characters do on one level and they don’t on another, and that’s life, that’s closer to real life than it is to a two-dimensional character in any conventional play.”

(Charnoff)For VPR Backstage, I’m Neal Charnoff.

(Host) “A Moon for the Misbegotten” will be performed at Quarryworks, at the Adamant Music School, through August 22nd. All performances are free.

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