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Review: A Moon for the Misbegotten 

Tyler Gillespie on Eugene O'Neill's 20th-century classic play, now playing at The Irish House

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In A Moon for the Misbegotten, whiskey and schemes flow steadily as a father and daughter try to hold on to their home. Inner Compass Theatre presents the show on the second floor of The Irish House, and the drama is an intense look at love, loss and the lies people tell themselves. The audience can order food and drinks throughout the show, but this isn't dinner theater.

  Written by Eugene O'Neill, an Irish-American playwright lauded for his realism, the show is a sequel to Long Day's Journey into Night and it explores financial and emotional hardship. A minimal set of a front porch step, clothes hanging on a line and a tree stump evokes the Hogan family's life of tenant farming. With a sharp tongue and foul mouth, Phil Hogan (Tony Bentley) pushes his sons to leave the farm. Only his daughter, Josie (Rachel Whitman Groves), can put up with his orneriness. Josie has a bad reputation — she's brash, "mean mouthed" and considered promiscuous — but there's a lot more to her than her coarse demeanor leads people to believe.

  The playwright uses long sequences of dialogue and detailed exposition to delve into the characters' various problems. In the wrong hands, the play could easily fall flat, but these performers get it right. As the father-daughter pair, Bentley and Groves share great energy. The two go from cursing each other one moment to being partners in crime the next. They liven many exchanges — Josie constantly refers to her father as some type of farm animal — and their interactions are quick and satisfying. In a particularly charged scene, a Hogans' neighbor tried to buy their lease from under them, but the pair gave him the one-two punch and sent him away humiliated. The real trouble lies with their landlord, Jim Tyrone (Casey Groves), and the duo undertake what becomes a complicated ruse to try stay on the farm.

  Rachel Groves' riveting performance gave the show depth. The town knows Josie as a hard-hearted woman, but she's searching for a meaningful relationship. Josie and Jim flirt, but she doesn't believe she's pretty enough to be desired. Groves convincingly rendered Josie's pain each time she referred to herself as a cow. Jim is a deeply troubled man who drinks himself into a stupor to escape his past. Both struggle with serious problems, but their relationship shows that no matter what, people need love.

  Though not without humor, the play is long and deals with difficult issues including substance abuse and grief, but a cast of fine actors made it an engaging show. — TYLER GILLESPIE


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