“A Moon for the Misbegotten” Shines on the Emerson Stage

BOZEMAN, Mont., January 21, 2019—The work of Eugene O’Neill, arguably the greatest American playwright of all time, is about to light up the stage in Bozeman. But the performance history of “A Moon for the Misbegotten,” O’Neill’s last play, was anything but straightforward on its way here.

Bozeman Actors Theatre will present the classic American drama at the Emerson Center for the Arts and Culture beginning February 21.

O’Neill completed the play in 1943, seven years after he won the Nobel Prize in Literature and before illness forced him to stop writing. The original production in 1947, staged in Columbus, Ohio, was poorly done and a commercial flop, and O’Neill never saw it produced on Broadway before his death in 1953.

A couple of attempts in New York during the next 20 years never gained traction, and it wasn’t until a revival on Broadway in 1973, starring Colleen Dewhurst and Jason Robards, that the play finally achieved its reputation as a masterpiece of the American theater. The New York Times proclaimed it “one of the great plays of the 20th century.”

Now in its 10th season, Bozeman Actors Theatre thinks the time is right—and “Moon” the ideal play—to present O’Neill to its audience for the first time, said director Mark Kuntz.

During the play, set over two days at a Connecticut farmhouse in 1923, a crossroads of fate forever alters three lives: Josie Hogan (played by Kari Doll), a domineering Irishwoman with a quick tongue and a ruined reputation; her conniving tenant farmer father, Phil (Mike Hesford); and their landlord, James Tyrone (Daniel Erickson), a washed-up actor and lost soul haunted by the ghosts of his past.

“Eugene O’Neill is as big as it gets in the American theater,” Kuntz said. “We really wanted to accept the challenge of staging one of his monumental plays, and it’s a work with so many rewards for the artists and the audience, too. In rehearsal we’ve really explored the great depths of this play and figured out all this can be.”

Kuntz assembled what he calls “the ideal cast” of BAT veterans Kari Doll, Daniel Erickson, Colton Swibold, and Richard Dunbar, along with newcomer Mike Hesford from Boulder, Mont. One pleasant surprise for the actors has been the humor in the play that complements its well-known serious and tragic side. “This Irish-American father and daughter are a force to be reckoned with,” Kuntz said. “Audiences are going to love those lighthearted moments.”

“A Moon for the Misbegotten” is the third play in Bozeman Actors Theatre’s 2018-19 season, dedicated to its late co-founder Dee Dee Van Zyl, who passed away last year. Shows in the Crawford Theater at the Emerson Center for the Arts and Culture, 111 South Grand Ave., will run February 21, 22, 23, 28 and March 1, 2 beginning promptly at 7 p.m. All ages are welcome, but parental guidance is suggested for some adult situations. Tickets are $20 for general admission or $10 for students and are available in advance at www.bozemanactorstheatre.org/tickets or at the door.