Fathers and sons. The ghost of unfulfilled expectations. The anguish of premature loss. These are difficult subjects to tackle, more so within the context of a play. And, perhaps, even more difficult for the son of a famous father.

Fathers and sons. The ghost of unfulfilled expectations. The anguish of premature loss. These are difficult subjects to tackle, more so within the context of a play. And, perhaps, even more difficult for the son of a famous father.

These are the themes that Jonathan Moscone and Tony Taccone address in "Ghost Light," which opened Saturday in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's New Theatre.

Moscone is the artistic director of the California Shakespeare Theater. Taccone is the artistic director of the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The two men are close friends and the play, written by Taccone, conceived and developed by both and directed by Moscone, evolved from many conversations, many shared memories.

Moscone is the son of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, assassinated in 1978 by Dan White. White killed Board of Supervisors member Harvey Milk at the same time and it has been Milk — the first openly gay U.S. politician — who has gotten the bulk of media attention.

But George Moscone was an extraordinary man. First elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1963, he fought for the poor and minorities and small businesses. He was elected to the California State Senate in 1963 and quickly became majority leader. Courageous and feisty, he consistently backed a progressive agenda and won on issues such as school lunches and — most impressively — the repeal of California's sodomy law. He was larger than life, a man with a tremendous future in national politics.

Jonathan Moscone was 14 years old when his father was murdered. He was home from school and sick that day and learned about his father's death via a news flash.

How do you cope with that kind of loss? How do you resolve who you are with who you think you should be? How do you live a "normal" life after something like that?

Taccone's concept is, for the most part, a memory play, a play about the child and the man. Taccone has set the adult Jon's increasingly agitated dream life against his real-life dilemma of directing a production of "Hamlet."

"Ghost Light" swings from contemporary, witty repartee to probing metaphorical analysis. The mood shifts from dream to reality keep the on-stage action briskly moving. The linear plot flirts outrageously with all the bits and pieces of the fabric of the imagined, the half-forgotten and the half-remembered.

Jon (Christopher Liam Moore) is stuck at how to portray Hamlet's father's ghost. What is the assassinated king actually saying to his son? Why is he saying it? Jon's friend and the production's designer, Louise (Robynn Rodriguez), at first urges him to move beyond this block, finish conceptualizing the production. Gradually, she realizes that until Jon copes with what the ghost really represents for him, he not only cannot go on with "Hamlet," but also cannot cope with his life.

Jon's dream life, on the other hand, is a crazy quilt of action and reaction. There is an abrasive, foul-mouthed and threatening Prison Guard (Bill Geisslinger). There is a sexy, hapless boyfriend, Loverboy (Danforth Comins). A mysterious and beckoning spirit guide, Mister (Derrick Lee Weeden). And, always, at the center of Jon's dreams, there is the frightened teenage boy, bereft of his father and set emotionally adrift (Tyler James Myers).

It could not have been easy for Jonathan Moscone to direct a play in which most of the characters are parts of his own psyche. Taccone's script and Moscone's direction manage to weave all the threads together for the most part. There are some loose ends, some bits are more effective than others, but the overall effect is ultimately dazzling.

Moore is incredibly good as Jon. His wit, his intelligence and his empathy create a complex and compelling character.

Moscone's supporting cast members are equally excellent. Geisslinger and Weeden are powerful and eerie. Rodriguez brings her usual wit and clarity to Louise. And Myers does a fine job of delineating the tormented young Jon.

Scenic designer Todd Rosenthal has created a fascinating set. Using a scrim and solid set, we have San Francisco's City Hall and Civic Center. All of the action takes place in front of and behind this looming presence, never out of Jon's memory or ours. Rosenthal also makes effective use of video projections and small video screens, designed by Maya Ciarrocchi.

"Ghost Light" was commissioned by OSF's American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle, the 10-year project about moments of change in U.S. history. It is a co-production of OSF and Berkeley Rep.

Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at rbkent@mind.net.