title>'Long Day's Journey Into Night '| a CurtainUp Review
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A CurtainUp Review
Long Day's Journey Into Night
By Elyse Sommer
No matter how many times one takes this journey, it is never quite the same. The actors playing making the most of the play's juicy roles have varied from genuinely Irish to Asian-Americans. Many are memorable enough to overcome the play's tendency to feel endlessly long and too repetitive.
There's nothing like one's first encounter with a play justly dubbed as a contemporary classic. Still, revisiting the inextricably and unhappily chained together by their familial bonds Tyrones has enthralled me again and again. Happily, that was the case with my latest visit with the Tyrones at the Roundabout's American Airlines Theater. I was once again completely caught up in the gradually unpacked travails during which their "past is the present." At almost four hours it's long, but somehow never too long.
I didn't see the 2001 London version in which Jessica Lange first played Mary Tyrone as she does in the new revival at the Roundabout's American Airlines Theater. Undoubtedly her interpretation of this convent girl who married too young and unwisely is informed by her own experiences between then and now. At any rate, whatever new nuances Lange has brought to the role, her current portrayal is one of the best and most moving I've seen. That also goes for the entire ensemble and British director Jonathan Kent's atmospheric staging.
As my colleague Les Gutman said when he saw the National Asian American production (NAATCO) back in 1997, despite its long monologues and frequent repetitions,the characters of Long Day's Journey into Night, can be described in just a few nouns and adjectives: Paterfamilias James= quintessential cheapskate, alcoholic whose miserliness had him self destruct his meaningful acting ambitions. . ..Mother Mary= self-deluded, lonely and hopelessly addicted to morphine. . .James Jr= unsuccessful, bitter eldest son, also an alcoholic. . .Edmund= tubercular poet with philosophic bent who's back in the family summer home after some years at sea. The plot can be summed up as a double crisis: Mary back on morphine, and Edmond's diagnosis of tuberculosis and the likelihood of his miserly father sending him to the state hospital.
It's the Mother's show since the cause and continuing tragedy of her addiction is what triggers the unburying of bitter truths. Her obvious return to the habit after a hoped for recent trip to a treatment facility, hangs over the Tyrone's summer seaside cottage as heavily as the fog gathering over the sea outside. Jessica Lange brings an eerie force to Mary's insistently delusionary denial, her angry outbursts of anger, recrimination and overly fond memories of falling in love. Her final scene, when she makes her final descent down the cottage's steep staircase carrying her treasured wedding dress, is as gut-wrenching as any I've ever seen.
Fortunately the other actors impressively support Ms. Lange in making what O'Neill called his "play of old sorrows" once again a riveting theatrical outing no matter how many times you've seen it. Gabriel Byrne as Lange's husband, whose self-destructive ways are seeded by his poverty-stricken childhood, lets us see the residues of charm and ambition of his matinee Idol days as an actor with a big future, as well as his genuine love for his wife and son. It's interesting to see him as Mary's husband, rather than the guilt-ridden James Jr. he played in the 2000 revival of Moon for the Misbegotten .
Michael Shannon a terrific actor but not one who'd come to mind to play the eldest O'Neill son turns out to be an extremely compelling James Jr. He captures the despair of the still young man who supportive but hostile son, the love-hate feelngs for his younger brother that makes hm warn Edmund to turn away from his influence. While I heard some complaints from people seeing the play early in its run that John Gallagher Jr was the weak link in this ensemble, he seems to have gotten into the Edmund's fear for himself and his mother.
While there are comic moments throughout this dark trajectory through the Tyrones' grim revelations, most of the lighter moments are provided by the Irish servant Cathleen, in this case the delightful Colby Minifie.
Set designer Tom Pye has effectively mirrored the family's drug and alcohol fueled recollections with an oddly angled living and dining roomj, an exceptionally tall staircase and a floating curtain. The metaphoric implications are heightened by Natasha Katz's lighting and Clive Goodwin's mournful sound effects. Jane Greenwood and Tom Watson have outfitted Ms. Lange with apt touches of Miss Havisham madness.
Since Sunday's more than usual subway delays caused me to arrive a few minutes late at the theater, I spent some time at the left rear of the theater and the rest further front. I'm happy to report that this cast projects so that every word can be clearly heard wherever you sit. If you're going to buy a ticket, however (and if you value good theater, you should), I would advise you to avoid a seat too far over on the right side.
For more about Eugene O'Neill and links to productions of this and other of his plays we've reviewed, see our O'Neill Backgrounder
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Long Day's Journey Into Night by Eugene O'Neill
Directed by Jonathan Kent
Cast: Cast: Cast: Jessica Lange (Mary Tyrone), Gabriel Byrne (James Tyrone), Michael Shannon (Jim Tyrone Jr), John Gallagher Jr. (Edmund Tyrone), Colby Minifie (Cathleen, the maid)
Sets: Tom Pye
Costumes: Jane Greenwood
Lighting: Natasha Katz
Sound: Clive Goodwin
Hair and Wig Design: Tom Watson
Fight Director: J. David Brimmer
Dialect Coach: Stephen Gabis Stage Manager: Peter Lawrence
Running Time: 3 hours and 45 minutes, 1 intermission which comes at the 90 minute mark. American Airlines Theatre 227 West 42nd Street
From 3/31/16; opening 4/27/16; closing 6/26/16.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at May 1st press matinee
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