By April Wilson, Senior Staff Writer
“I imagine this play as if it were an old photo album…a love note left between two pages of a book. It captures a moment in these…people’s lives that changes them,” read the director’s notes from Zack Jennison in the program to his production of “A Moon for the Misbegotten.” Jennison’s graduate thesis production was simple yet beautiful and executed his vision perfectly.
The Eugene O’Neill play was first performed in 1947. It follows the three characters of Josie Hogan (Holly Sitzman), a domineering, loud and opinionated woman with a lascivious (but false) reputation; her scheming tenant farmer and alcoholic father, Phil Hogan (D. Scott Glasser); and their landlord and Phil’s drinking partner James Tyrone, Jr. (William Muller), a man haunted by his dark and mysterious past.
The largest part of the play deals with what was supposed to be a night of romance under the moon between Josie and Tyrone in her attempt to trick him into marrying him so that she and her father can prevent him from selling the farm to T. Stedman Harder (Jon Hoppes). However, the plan unravels because Josie and Tyrone passionately love each other. Their conversation unravels and becomes a tragic picture of a moment in their lives because Tyrone doesn’t want to take Josie’s innocence and father from her.
Eventually we learn that Josie’s ruined reputation was a result of her own lies, and Tyrone is haunted by the death of his mother and hatred for his father. At the end, Tyrone leaves, never to be seen again and presumably dying of his alcoholism while Josie returns her attention and devotion back to her father.
The production was held in room 006 of Weber Fine Arts. The small black box was turned into a performance space by the addition of a large boulder, gravel and a hay bale. A small porch was built beneath the technical booth that was creatively and seamlessly turned into a loft representative of the Hogan home. Initially, the set was underwhelming, but the performances of the actors within the space and the well done lighting kept the modest size audience transfixed.
Sitzman was domineering and fierce in her portrayal of Josie. She gave her character a hardened exterior, but in the moonlight scene with Tyrone, Sitzman allowed a subtle vulnerability and tenderness to come through that made the character a real and relatable person.
Muller’s portrayal of Tyrone was tortured and heart wrenching. His powerful and beautiful performance was absolutely mesmerizing and really made the show. During a scene where he describes his reaction to his mother’s death, I felt the shame and disgust he had for himself.
The one challenge in the performance was the character of Phil. Theatre department chair D. Scott Glasser took over the role only eight days before the performance, and was the third person to play the role, according to Jennison. As a result, he was still on script during the performance. At first it was distracting to see him walk around script in hand, but his performance eventually overshadowed this fact. He interacted and engaged with the other characters on stage, all while maintaining an impressive Irish accent, characterization and impeccable timing. His character above all others brought a little color and humor to an otherwise heartbreakingly somber, but beautiful show.
Jennison’s vision of the show as an old photo album was successful as this story will surely endure in the audience’s minds as a beautiful and tragic example of love and loss.