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Editor: Frederick Wilkins
Suffolk University, Boston

Vol. VII, No. 1
Spring, 1983



4. A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN, directed by Polly Hogan. The Lyric Stage, Boston, MA February 9 - March 13, 1983.

As performed at the Lyric Stage, O'Neill's Moon had two distinct phases, one barren and one bountiful. The first half of the play was staged and performed in a manner that was nothing less than execrable. Sloppy blocking, missed lines, and garbled diction nearly drove this member of the audience out onto the street. Sheila Ferrini as Josie Hogan and William Barnard as her father were awkward and uncomfortable with one another. Barnard's alleged brogue was positively Cromwellian in its abuse of Gaeldom—a disease that was compounded by an all too searching delivery, which gave one the impression that he was playing a Hogan with a hangover. Ronald Ritchell's Jim Tyrone was so world-weary and bleakly distant that it painted new shades of colorlessness. And one hesitates to mention at all the T. Stedman Harder of Arthur Barlas, although the lion-tamer-like get-up he was subjected to wearing would have given even Clyde Beatty pause. The comedy, among O'Neill's best, that enlivens the early part of the text, and balances the somber seriousness of the later scenes, was subdued to the point of nonexistence. Perhaps Polly Hogan, in directing, chose deliberately to downplay the humor, but why? Evidently Ms. Hogan lacks the lighter side of her dramatic namesakes, and the painfully cumbersome early scenes still rankle the memory.

Yet something drastic happened when Ritchell returned, late in the second act, for Jim and Josie's moonlit rendezvous (pictured on this issue's cover). It was as if he had somehow found himself in the role in mid-performance--and in doing so he saved the production. His drunkenness was grimly serious. He relied on no easy "business." His distance now became ruefully poignant because he was desperately trying, simultaneously, to maintain it and break away from it. When he forced the whiskey glass from Josie's hand it was literally shattering, and the look on his face after he realized that he had mistaken Josie for a tart was nearly a brush with greatness. Ferrini's Josie became intoxicated with Ritchell's Jim; the warmth she exuded was subtle and sweet, bringing them together. She also conveyed the bitter coldness of her subsequent disgust at Jim's confession about his behavior on the train ("with that blond pig,") bringing his mother's body home ("Oh, Jim, how could you!"). Her withering countenance froze and stifled the interlude of affection that her fervent acceptance of Jim had previously kindled.

The morning after was also deftly handled. Ritchell again stabbed the audience with his merciless self-hatred when he remembered the proceedings of the night before, and he and Miss Ferrini shared a farewell that was decorous yet tender. Even William Barnard could not manage to befoul the play's closing scene. His earlier bullishness was cowed. Ferrini left us full of admiration and sympathy for Josie. As for Ritchell, we must agree with Josie that his Jim deserves "forgiveness and peace."

As a concluding note, the Lyric Stage dispensed with the expository scene between Josie and her brother. It was not missed.

—Thomas F. Connolly



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