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STAGE REVIEW : ‘MOON’ ECLIPSED BY CASTING PROBLEMS

The Grove Theatre Company offers uninspired professionalism in its rendering of Eugene O’Neill’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten” at the Gem in Garden Grove. Thomas F. Bradac’s actors appear to be well-trained but miscast; they go through the proper paces but don’t really inhabit their roles.

Although Cherie A. Brown’s plain face and coarsely combed hair look right for the role of Josie, she otherwise doesn’t fit O’Neill’s description--"so oversize for a woman that she is almost a freak.” Nor does she speak in the rough-hewn tone we expect from Josie. Nevertheless, Brown brings enough spirit to the role that we can see what she’s attempting, even if she doesn’t always succeed.

As Josie’s landlord and half-hearted suitor, Russ Terry is physically closer to what O’Neill had in mind, though his light summer suit (designer Karen J. Weller) violates O’Neill’s directions and adds a blithe touch to a character who is anything but blithe. Terry’s mellow voice and low-key demeanor further undermine his characterization; he translates Jamie’s world-weariness into torpor. His outbursts seem fake.

Daniel Bryan Cartmell looks too young to be Josie’s dad, but his grip on his character is stronger than that of either of the leads. Wayne C. Watkins is an efficient martinet as the rich neighbor. Because I arrived several minutes late, I missed the performance of Danny Oberbeck as Josie’s brother.

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Designer Gil Morales placed his jerry-built farmhouse in a thick grove of trees. It looks as if the forest will quickly reclaim the site if the Hogans ever move. Kevin A. Cook’s lights observe the rise and fall of the moon without ever quite sending a chill down the spine. It’s that kind of evening.

Performances through May 10 are at 12852 Main St., Garden Grove, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 and 7:30 p.m. Call (714) 636-7213 for information.


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