Was Moon Eclipsed By Critics?
Proclaiming it "fiercely dramatic yet with nuaced staging," New York Post
's Clive Barnes
offers high marks: "As Josie, Best hits every note with a sweetly underscored emphasis. Her acting is as natural as breathing, with a technique that doesn't just disguise technique but disposes of it. Marvelous! Spacey and Meaney are just the opposite: They exult in their technique. They not only let you see where every effect is coming from, they actually stand aside as if to share in your admiration. It doesn't matter. You gasp, but it works."
Calling the production a "marvel," the Associated Press' Michael Kuchwara
has praise all around for the revival's acting: "Best is making her New York debut in this English import....It would be a serious mistake to miss her extraordinary performance, a remarkable balancing act of power and vulnerability, sexuality and innocence.... Spacey...gives a carefully crafted performance. With his shy, almost impish smile, he ingratiatingly captures the man's surface joviality. It's a jokey slickness masking a guilt-riddled despair, a sorrow that explodes when he has had too much to drink....O'Neill's dated language can be melodramatic, even florid, but Spacey has the gift of making these outbursts sound painfully genuine."
Labeling the production "boisterous but oddly tepid" in his two-and-a-half star review, USA Today
's Simon Annand
offers a mixed assessment: "[I]n darker, more crucial moments, we see less of the capacity for unmannered emotional intensity that made Spacey a major player in both film and theater. There are glimmers of it in some of Tyrone's tortured ramblings, just as Best brings wrenching pathos to Josie's patches of despair, particularly in her scenes with Meaney, who is superb as Josie's bumbling father. Still, this Moon
isn't as absorbing or affecting as it should have been."
Charging that this is "an off-kilter revival," Ben Brantley
of The New York Times
also took issue with Davies' lack of sobriety for the proceedings: "Yet even in the play’s climactic scene, in which Tyrone reveals his love for Josie and the cancerous self-disgust that makes him drink, the audience keeps laughing. Mr. Spacey brings a stand-up artist’s timing to Tyrone’s reversals of mood so that they land like punch lines....But the night belongs to Ms. Best, who clearly and winningly maps the contradictory levels of Josie Hogan, both the blustery facade and the sensitive core."
Also taking issue with the enhanced comedic aspects of the play is Eric Grode
of The New York Sun
: "Mr. Davies's suspiciously boisterous production of the 1947 play...lets the bawdy first half suck up too much oxygen, diminishing the richer emotions that follow....Mr. Spacey never lets the showman fade completely. A generous assessment of his antic delivery is that he is masking James's self-loathing with a carefree façade. Still, it's hard not to assume that he's merely delivering a few extra easy laughs -- and sidelining Ms. Best's majestic efforts in the process. This sort of mooning about is more than just misguided. It's misbegotten."
Accusing Spacey of "packing too much ego to entirely serve a complex role" that ends up a "disappointment," Variety
's David Rooney
takes a more direct hit on the actor: "[H]e continually undercuts the pathos by shamelessly courting the audience, too often punctuating the bleak revelations with smug line-readings colored by sardonic humor....A drama in which lies and protective shields dissolve to reveal the truth -- leaving Jim on a fast track to doom and Josie to face the future with new self-awareness -- demands honesty from its actors. That honesty is vivid and unpolluted only in the spiritual warmth of Best as Josie cradles her wounded 'child' in still-virginal arms at dawn, her tenderness enveloping the audience."
Will the mixed reviews matter much for this star-driven limited run production (the show is scheduled to close on June 10)? Most likely not, considering that A Moon For The Misbegotten boasted a box office capacity last week of 96.9%, up 9.7% over its previous week.
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