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A Moon for the Misbegotten (1952)
by Eugene O'Neill
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I don't know how else to describe this play other than "heart-breakingly beautiful". I absolutely love it. What a fabulous insight into raw human emotion. The tragedy is that the love between Josie and Tyrone isn't unrequited at all--it's very real, and very deep; it's impossible to say who needs eachother more. Yet despite the strength of the the emotion between them, regret, shame, and pride keep them apart. For just one night they let their follies fall away, but each has a conflicting view on what it means to show their love to each other. This play reminds me very much of Gone with the Wind-- the complexity of the characters and their relations, the pride that keeps them from letting each other in. The challenge of this play's character development would be a gift to any actor. As a counselor and an actress, this is one of my favorite pieces of American writing. ( )
O'Neil earned (won?) a Nobel prize for Iceman Cometh, Morning Becomes Elektra and other plays. This gem, and I use the term loosely, follows the action of Long Day's Journey Into the Night (I think that's the one).
The play revolves around the twin moons of Jim Tyrone and Josie. Jim Tyrone has recently come home, searching for some semblence of forgiveness in the depthos of a bottle. Josie, the daughter of his tenent, has been flirting and falling in love with him all the while. After months and years of unrequited passion, the pair finally share a moment of truth and forgiveness one moonlit night.
Doesn't that paragraph make it sound wonderful? O'Neill precedes this play with a disclaimer - he wrote it in 1942, didn't edit it, never got it produced and finally published it in the fifties. The wait did not make this play sweeter. Moon isn't a classic, just middling at best. If O'Neill couldn't get his work produced, there probably was a reason - the work just stunk.
It is rare when we can touch the soul of another. Eugene O'Neill provides us with an even rarer gift, to touch three souls who congregate on one summer day on a farm in Connecticut. Three souls who live only in his imagination but who are still very real. I have nothing in common Josie Hogan, her father, Phil Hogan, and Jim Thornton, young landlord to their tenant farm. Not their brogue, their hardscrabble way of life, their harsh words that wedge a family apart, their hard drinking, their despondency. But O'Neill brought me into the center of their life, to experience, first hand, this one day in their life where their fear, pain, hope and loss culminate. A day when they face each other, face the truth in themselves, to discover that this, and no other, is their one life to live.
Phil Hogan has just seen his youngest son leave farm and family, unable to cope with his father's harsh attitude. Only Josie and Father Hogan remain, and they maintain a mutual understanding and respect. They have each other and the farm, which Jim has promised to sell them for a pittance. But their hostile neighbor has tendered an offer for the farm which will be hard for Jim to refuse. Is their livelihood now at stake?
Nothing is as it seems. Phil comes home from the Inn with a story that Jim will sell to the neighbor. Is that true, or is Phil just using Jim's joke as the means to set a honey trap with Josie as bait? And is Phil motivated by concern for the farm or concern for Josie's happiness? Or both? Does he himself know which it is? We don't know, Josie doesn't know, she has to decide nonetheless. She decides to trust Jim and to give Phil the benefit of the doubt, that he was acting in her interest.
She is right to trust Jim, and from the trust they build together comes a miracle--Josie regains her virginity! At least in any sense that matters. But it is not their fate to build a future together. Jim has died inside, killed by the ghosts of his past, his sense of self shattered by a dead father who likely treated him as Phil treated his own sons, a self made unrecoverable by his mother's death. Josie and Jim have had their one night together, under the moon, and facing a dawn that "will wake in the sky like a promise of God's peace in the soul's dark sadness."
The last work from one of the twentieth century's most significant writers, continuing the semi-autobiographical cycle centring on the Tyrone family started by Long Day's Journey into Night. James 'Jamie' Tyrone Jnr is a hard-drinking Broadway playboy, trying to blot out his painful memories of the past by indulging his craven self-destructive streak. One day he finds that he has wandered to the home of his salty tenant-farmer Phil Hogan; and Hogan's lusty, jaded daughter Josie. Under the Connecticut moon, Jamie and Josie find something in each other they never knew existed - though it is only when he passes out dead drunk that Josie can really touch him. But will he still be there when the moon goes? Eugene O'Neill's play A Moon for the Misbegotten had its world premiere at the Hartman Theatre in Columbus, Ohio, in 1947. It premiered on Broadway in 1957. This edition of the play includes a full introduction, biographical sketch and chronology.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)812.52 — Literature English (North America) American drama 20th Century 1900-1945
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Yale University Press
An edition of this book was published by Yale University Press.