THEATER: Audra McDonald Shines in WTF’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten” [Berkshire on Stage]
Theater review by Roseann Cane
Eugene O’Neill describes Josie Hogan as having the map of Ireland stamped on her face, a woman of Amazonian proportions, nearly six feet tall and 180 pounds. (A Moon for the Misbegotten is set in 1923, when a woman of that size would have certainly been unusual.) With her brash persona, and her boasts of multiple sexual flings, she puts on a fearful show, and though I’m a big admirer of Audra McDonald, I had concerns that the beautiful, elegant actress would be miscast, a distraction.
But McDonald is bigger than that, figuratively speaking. In this heart-wrenching production at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, McDonald makes Josie her own, and the raw honesty of her Josie is magnificent.
The entire cast is superb. Josie and her father Phil (the great Glynn Turman) are tenant farmers living in a shack on the the estate now owned by James Tyrone (Will Swenson, who also happens to be McDonald’s husband). Tyrone is a dissipated alcoholic, a womanizing Broadway actor whom O’Neill modeled after his brother, the same James Tyrone from A Long Day’s Journey Into Night. With his elegant attire and fine manners, it would seem odd that James is drawn to the rough-hewn Josie, and that she is in love with him, but the beautifully crafted play brings us to an unforgettable understanding of their mutual love.