Saturday, January 08, 2011

Jamie's Instinct for Redemption

I'm roughly off-book for Moon and will be solid before first understudy rehearsal.  I'm in good shape as long as Eric stays healthy and doesn't feel like disappearing to South America within the next week or so.

The deeper I've drilled into this role the more sensitive to its main theme I've become:  that redemption is possible, though imperfect, if we need it badly enough. Anyone who's lived past forty and has weathered a catastrophe or two--e.g., bad marriage, career dead-end, substance abuse--can grasp Jamie's self-hatred and end-game desperation to cleanse his soul even as he settles into what he know's is his final chapter, the final two months of his sour, self-pitying little life.  (I can't help being reminded of Leaving Los Vegas.)

This is the material for rehab and Twelve step encounter sessions--I know, because I've been there--but worthy of literary, dramatic treatment because at the heart of one's need for redemption is a mystery irreducible to self-help platitudes and bromides or sociological schemas:  the mystery is that one feels the need to redeem one's conscience; one's soul.  I'm not (or no longer) a religious man and feel great distain--I even share Jamie's disgust--for the metaphysics and crude promises of monotheistic religions, but I'm fully alive to one of the needs to which religion administers:  the need eventually to live with a clean conscience; and also, somewhat more obliquely, eventually fully to become the person one knows one self to be, or have been, underneath the sedimentations of guilt and remorse that can have accumulated over a life time.

Jamie is not a likable man in the end.  He's self-indulgent, infantile, violent, misogynistic, self-deluding, weak, and self-pitying, but underneath all that, his self pity leads him to fulfill a spiritual purpose, freeing both himself and Josie, his chosen confessor, from the existential hell that they may not have created for themselves, but which is their own responsibility to escape.

Working on Moon for the Misbegotten has deepened my understanding of forgiveness as the mechanism for personal 'redemption,' not easily earned, as O'Neill reminds us by writing it out at lengths unfriendly to Aristotelian economy or Hollywood movie brevity.  If O'Neill had written out Jamie's confession more concisely I don't think I'd recognize or believe it, as hellish as it was to memorize.

p.s.  The Arden production is terrific, please see it.  If you're interested in seeing the understudy run, as well, drop me a line and I'll tell you when it is.


suzy vitello soulé said...

This sounds like such a great show. Wish I was there to see it!

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