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“A Moon for the Misbegotten” shines at Emerson

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Mike Hesford and Kari Doll in Eugene O’ Neill’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten.” PHOTO COURTESY BOZEMAN ACTORS THEATRE

BOZEMAN ACTORS THEATRE

The work of Eugene O’Neill, arguably the greatest American playwright of all time, is lighting 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.

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.

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 to be “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, according to director Mark Kuntz.

“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 Colter Langan, along with newcomer Mike Hesford from Boulder, Montana. One pleasant surprise for the actors has been the play’s humor, which complements its serious and tragic sides.

“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 2018-2019 season, dedicated to its late cofounder Dee Dee Van Zyl, who passed away last year. Shows in the Crawford Theater at the Emerson Center for the Arts and Culture will run March 1 and 2 beginning promptly at 7 p.m. All ages are welcome, but parental guidance is suggested due to some adult situations.

Tickets can be bought at the door, but visit bozemanactorstheatre.org for more information and to purchase tickets in advance.

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