* Walter Kerr Theatre, New York City * Written by Eugene O’Neill * Directed by Daniel Sullivan * Starring Cherry Jones, Gabriel Byrne, and Roy Dotrice

Cherry Jones is one of today’s few great performers (and the only out lesbian) whose stardom derives from her work on Broadway rather than in movies or TV. The current revival of Eugene O’Neill’s *A Moon for the Misbegotten* was produced specifically to showcase her in one of the prime roles for women in 20th century American drama. The play, O’Neill’s last, is essentially a portrait of his brother in the guise of James Tyrone, Jr., a dissolute actor who’s drinking himself to death (played by the Irish actor Gabriel Byrne). Josie Hogan is an earthy big-bone gal whose father (an excellent performance by Roy Dotrice) farms land owned by Tyrone. She prides herself on being “the scandal of the neighborhood” for sleeping with all the guys, and her job in the play is to offer redemption to Tyrone, who in turn unmasks the innocent virgin who lives underneath Josie’s bluff exterior.

The play is stolidly old-fashioned in its psychology, running on rigid gender roles and classic Catholic body-hatred. And yet, in this honestly acted production, it has a powerfully haunting impact. The long scene in which Tyrone lies in Josie’s arms and confesses his worst sin -- that he missed his mother’s funeral because he was holed up drunk with a floozy -- becomes a stirring act of sexual healing.

Jones is good if a little squeaky-clean as Josie. What’s fascinating about the production is the added nuance that her lesbianism brings to the character. Maybe it’s that she doesn’t seem destroyed but rather liberated to have her secret aired. In any case, when the script exposes Josie’s slutty past as empty boasting, it’s possible for us to recognize her counterfeit heterosexuality as the protective camouflage by which a rural lesbian learns to survive and thrive -- an unprecedented interpetation of this classic American play.

The Advocate, May 9, 2000

| music | arts | men and sex