Tuesday, September 22, 2020


Colleen Dewhurst, Jason Robards, Jr. (Photos: Martha Swope)

A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN [Dramatic Revival] A: Eugene O’Neill; D: Jose Quintero; S/L: Ben Edwards; C: Jane Greenwood; P: Elliot Martin and Lester Osterman Productions; T: Morosco Theatre; 1/29/73-7/13/74; 9/3/74-11/17/74 (313)

Ed Flanders, Jason Robards, Jr., Colleen Dewhurst.

After several depressing outings, director Jose Quintero, whose fame rested largely on his stagings of Eugene O’Neill, made a thrilling comeback with this notable revival of O’Neill’s last play,  A Moon for the Misbegotten, a play that Walter Kerr said “may be O’Neill’s richest work for the theatre.” Clive Barnes noted that this was “a landmark production,” “touching and splendid.” Richard Watts called it “brilliant,” Douglas Watt labeled it “stunning,” and T.E. Kalem rejoiced that “Broadway is a noble word again. Power, beauty, passion and truth command the stage of the Morosco Theatre in [this] unmitigated triumph.”

Colleen Dewhurst, Jason Robards, Jr.

All the right ingredients had been expertly selected and brewed together for this heartfelt drama—completed in 1943 and premiered on Broadway in 1947—about the relationship between the great-sized earth mother Josie Hogan (Colleen Dewhurst), a virginal though seemingly whorish farm girl, and the self-destructive, whore-mongering, booze-corroded James Tyrone, Jr. (Jason Robards, Jr.), a character inspired by O’Neill’s own brother; he's also present in the playwright’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, to which this is considered a sequel

The performances of Dewhurst and Robards, along with Ed Flanders’s rancorously amusing work as the bilious, bibulous Phil Hogan, Josie’s father, and Ben Edwards’s austere yet evocative farmhouse setting, were scrupulously blended under Quintero’s sensitive, electric, and intelligent care to create a revival of memorable stature.

Colleen Dewhurst.

Josie, a hard-to-cast role because of O’Neill’s demand for a very large woman, was tailor-made for the robust, albeit not huge, Dewhurst, whom Kerr called “a beautiful woman giving a beautiful performance.” “She is as lucid and luminous, as unpoeticizingly poetic, as an actress can be in this part,” claimed John Simon, “and always uncloyingly the burning inwardness beneath the brash extroversion.” Robards was similarly honored. His performance marked him as the quintessential O’Neill hero, emotionally scarred and brooding. “Robards gives one of the best O’Neill performances I’ve ever seen,” averred Jack Kroll. “His Jamie is a frayed gentleman, a spoiled poet and polluted idealist.”

Colleen Dewhurst, Edwin J. McDonough.

The loudest objector was Martin Gottfried, who decried the work as a shoddy “commercial package” trading cynically on the reputations of its participants. His attack had little influence on those responsible for the season’s awards, as the production received a special Tony “as an outstanding dramatic revival of a major American play.” Dewhurst snared the Best Actress, Play, Tony, along with a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance. Ed Flanders took home the Tony for Best Supporting Actor, Play, and Robards received a Tony nomination for Best Actor, Play. Jose Quintero won the Tony as Best Director, Play, and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Direction, while Ben Edwards was nominated for a Tony as the Best Lighting Designer Tony.

Ed Flanders, John O'Leary, Colleen Dewhurst.

The roles of Mike Hogan and T. Stedman Harder were played, respectively, by Edwin J. McDonough and John O'Leary. Tom Clancy replaced Ed Flanders during the run.

Tom Clancy, Colleen Dewhurst.