Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Spacey From Across The Sea

" A Moon for the Misbegotten" at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, May 8, 2007

As the artistic director at London's Old Vic Theatre, Kevin Spacey has found himself a permanent performance venue for the duration of his contract. His first transfer to Broadway is Eugene O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten. Well-received in London, it's a solid production with a very talented cast.

The premise of the play surrounds Phil Hogan, an Irish immigrant farmer working rocky fields he rents from sometime Broadway actor Jim Tyrone in rural Connecticut in 1923. Having already run off his three sons, he's left with only his daughter Josie for help running the place. Jim has promised to sell the farm to Phil when his father's estate, of which the farm is a part, is finally settled. Josie has few prospects for anything that might lead to a husband and a life away from her father. She claims to be satisfied with her lot, having already found affection in the arms of many. Sadly, her true love is the tortured and alcoholic landlord, Jim Tyrone. She is described in Amazonian proportions to the point of horse-like. During the youngest brother's escape, he encourages her to entrap Tyrone into marriage as her last hope. Her father supports the concept and they work on a scheme to make it happen.

As Josie, Eve Best doesn't carry the physical proportions, but manages a gawky and uncultured demeanor that portrays the bovine specimen she should be. Her portrayal is an earnest performance of a fiery woman with plenty of rough edges. Her success is in that she doesn't sacrifice Josie's underlying vulnerability.

Colm Meaney gives a solid turn as Phil Hogan, a struggling immigrant who has chased off his three sons, perhaps intentionally so that they might have a better life than his.

Billy Carter, as T. Stedman Harder, blusters embarrassedly, to the point of not being understood on occasion.

Mr. Spacey's Jim Tyrone is a man who drops by his tenants' farm to get his ego stroked, his drinking problem enabled and enjoy the show. It seemed as though he was only there to watch the excellent performances of Mr. Meaney and Ms. Best during Act I, occasionally interjecting his lines in a non-sequitur style of delivery. It is Act II that Mr. Spacey "takes the stage." He runs the actor's gauntlet, but only becomes credible in Tyrone's drunken breakdown. At that point, it's almost too little, too late.

Bob Crowley's dirt floor and racked cabin sets give the appropriate air of desperation, with Mark Henderson's lighting almost a perfect companion.

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