The Agony and the Entropy

A Place With the Pigs probes the hell of inertia; A Moon for the Misbegotten trips on its long-winded sincerity

As Josie, Michelle Morain is warm and robust. With her wide, generous smile she seems to embrace the world in all its drunken imperfection. While she is undeniably appealing, this interpretation contributes to an overjovial, Beverly Hillbillies mood -- kind of, "Those darn drunks, you gotta love 'em." We don't really appreciate Josie's desperation or her very real tragedy.

Jonathan McMurtry's Phil is a charming old scene stealer who injects much-needed life into the overlong introductory scenes. But, again, he's so playful and mischievous that there's no conflict between father and daughter, no payoff when the confrontation occurs.

Director Michael Bloom seems to want both a stark, unrelenting expressionism (hence Barbara Mesney's grim set) and a warm, fuzzy emotional catharsis. He ends up with a play that keeps our interest only as it relates to the entire O'Neill canon. Otherwise, it seems as misbegotten as the folks for whom its moon shines.

A Place With the Pigs continues through May 7 at Aurora Theatre Company in Berkeley; call (510) 843-4822. A Moon for the Misbegotten runs through May 19 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre; call (510) 845-4700.

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