Eugene O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten is the latest show at Walnut Street Theatre’s Independence Studio on 3. This production marks the sixth national tour of a Walnut Street production, and after its run at the Walnut it will launch into a fifteen city tour.  When approaching O’Neill’s works one knows that they are about to see a play that has weighty themes and flawed characters that are dealing with tragedy, A Moon for the Misbegotten is no exception to this. It is a show that is complex and emotional, and this production at the Walnut Street Theatre, under the direction of Kate Galvin, brings heart to this tragic story.

A Moon for the Misbegotten sometimes is referred to as a sequel to Long Day’s Journey Into Night, a play about two brothers who struggle to deal with their mother’s morphine addiction. One of the brothers in Long Day’s Journey, Jim, also appears in A Moon for the Misbegotten, which takes place 11 years after the Long Day’s Journey. A Moon for the Misbegotten is set in 1923, and takes place around a Connecticut tenant farm, which is the home of Irish farmer, Phil Hogan (Michael P. Toner) and his tough-talking daughter Josie (Angela Smith.) Phil and Josie have their issues, Phil is an alcoholic and a tyrant to his children and Josie is quick-witted and has a tarnished reputation. However, when Jim Tyrone, Jr., a friend of the Hogan family and also their landlord, returns to settle the affairs of his mother’s estate long kept secrets begin to unravel. One night, under the moon, Jim tells Josie about his haunted past and his lifetime of discontent.  A Moon for the Misbegotten opened on Broadway in 1957, and has had four Broadway revivals.

I found the production at the Walnut Street Theatre had some strong points as well as some areas that seemed to miss the mark in keeping the audience invested in the story. Michael P. Toner is outstanding as Phil Hogan. Even though this character is manipulative, Toner brings out his Irish spirit, and he is immediately charming in this role. Angela Smith’s Josie is complex. When the audience first meets Josie she is forcing her brother, Mike (Jamison Foreman), to escape the farm. As unrelenting as she initially comes across in this first scene, there is this moment in which audiences can see she truly does care for her brother. The dynamic between Foreman and Smith in this opening scene is strong. Smith breathes life into this tough-talking character without making her seem heartless or bitter. Anthony Lawton plays James Tyrone, Jr., and he excelled at expressing how he is haunted by the events of his life. However, where this production lacked authenticity is in act two, in scenes in which Jim and Josie are supposed to have tender moments of affection. The fondness Jim has for Josie seemed to lack an emotional depth and felt unconvincing, and Smith and Lawton appeared to lack the necessary chemistry onstage in these moments to make their love for one another feel authentic.

Where this production excels is in the attention to detail in the set design. The set, designed by Andrew Thompson, gives the feel of a tenant farm in the 1920s. It is complete with a soft ground analog, weeds growing around the grounds and farmhouse and maple trees. Also, as the day approaches dusk there are even lights reminiscent of fireflies. The lighting design by J. Dominic Chacon sets the mood for the show as the day progresses from dusk to dawn, and there are moments where audiences will feel like they are witnessing a truly spectacular sunrise. In addition, Julia Poiesz designs the wonderful period costumes.

A Moon for the Misbegotten runs at the Walnut Street Theatre’s Independence Studio on 3 through February 7, 2016. For more information and tickets visit their website at or call the box office at 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787.

Final Thought: A Moon for the Misbegotten at the Walnut Street Theatre is a complex production, and under the direction of Kate Galvin, brings out the heart of the story. The show will leave the audience contemplating the lives and relationships of these complicated characters.

Photo credit: Mark Garvin

Kelli Curtin is editor and writer for In addition, she is a contributor for the online site Kelli is excited to share her passion about theatre and the Arts with her readers. Kelli can be found on TwitterFacebook and on Instagram.

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